Driving under the influence of drugs is the next generation of OVI (operating a vehicle impaired) enforcement in Ohio. It has become a priority of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Here are some studies suggesting why they are focusing on this issue.
According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 10.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 3.9 percent of adolescents and adults) reported driving under the influence of drugs during the year prior to being surveyed. This was higher than the rate in 2011 (3.7percent) and lower than the rate in 2002 (4.7 percent). By comparison, in 2012, an estimated 29.1 million persons (11.2 percent) reported driving under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year. (This percentage has dropped since 2002, when it was 14.2 percent.) According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2007 National Roadside Survey, more than 16 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs. More than 11 percent tested positive for illicit drugs. According to NSDUH data, men are more likely than women to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And young adults aged 18 to 25 are more likely to drive after taking drugs than other age groups. One NHTSA study found that in 2009, 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter drug (an increase from 13 percent in 2005).
Law enforcement from across Ohio has received specialized training via the state’s Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) course. Officers participate in an intensive three-week course. The first two phases of the course are held locally, and the third phase takes place at the Maricopa County Jail in Arizona. This facility processes an average of 900 inmates per day and will provide officers the opportunity to conduct hands-on drug evaluations for all seven drug categories. “I am pleased this training is being offered to our law enforcement partners,” said Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) Executive Director Karhlton Moore. “This will be an invaluable resource in our fight to curb impaired driving, as well as focus on emerging issues such as the prescription drug epidemic currently affecting so many communities across Ohio.”
I have been critical of this approach because it reinforces the mistaken belief by many in the law enforcement community that you can arrest your way out of a drug epidemic. It funnels resources away from programs designed to help people and into programs to lock people away. It should be no surprise to anyone that law enforcement likes this new tool. As the old saying goes, if the only tool you have is a hammer; every problem is a nail. Law enforcement officers will use this tool to do what they are designed to do and that is make arrests. It is up to us to question whether society is benefited by making more criminals than more recovered addicts.
I have taken courses in the Drug Recognition Expert Protocol and have studied the material relied on by DREs in making arrest decisions. I am one of the only DUI attorneys in Ohio that has received this training and I am in a great position to help you if you are charged with a drugged driving charge. Call me at (937) 318-1384 or 888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263).