Drugged driving in Massachusetts on the rise

Drugged driving is increasing in Massachusetts at almost twice the rate of drunk driving.

Driving after drinking too much alcohol increases the risk for causing car accidents. Although this is a dangerous form of impairment, it is not the only one. Drivers who take drugs, both legal and illegal, and operate a vehicle face similar risks. Unfortunately, the number of drivers in Massachusetts taking this risk is on the rise.

Violations relating to driving while under the influence of drugs, referred to as "drugged driving," are up 42 percent since 2011. This jump is almost double the jump recorded for drunk driving violations during the same time period.

Massachusetts state law and drugged driving

It is illegal in Massachusetts to operate a vehicle while impaired by drugs. Criminal charges will likely move forward if the state can establish that the person in question operated a vehicle, that he or she was on public roadways and that he or she was under the influence of marihuana, narcotics, depressants, stimulants, certain vapors or other qualifying drugs at the time.

The state considers a person to qualify as "under the influence" of the drug if the drug impacts his or her ability to operate a vehicle safely. It is important to distinguish that there is not a requirement that the individual actually operated the vehicle in an erratic manner; simply that he or she had a diminished ability to operate the vehicle safely at the time in question.

Although it is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, it is not always easy for an enforcement officer to gather the evidence needed to support these charges. The implied consent law that allows officers to take a breath test from a driver to determine if he or she is intoxicated with alcohol generally does not apply to testing for drug use. Law makers are considering proposals that would provide officers with options in these situations.

The presence of such options will become even more important if lawmakers pass proposals seeking to legalize the use of marijuana.

Massachusetts cases and drugged driving

Although it would be helpful if laws were enacted to better address this issue, the court may also soon provide guidance. A case addressing this issue will be heard by the highest court in the state. More specifically, the case questions whether or not police can testify in court about the administration and results of field sobriety tests when the driver is suspected to be under the influence of drugs and whether or not an officer is qualified to make the determination that a person is impaired due to drug use.

The holding in this case will provide precedent for future cases.

Drugged driving and victims of car crashes

Those who choose to use drugs and operate a vehicle and cause an accident may be held accountable for their wrongdoing. If the accident resulted in injuries to another, the victim of this accident could likely hold this driver accountable through a personal injury lawsuit. If successful, the suit can result in monetary compensation to help cover the costs resulting from the accident.

Anyone that was the victim of a drugged driving accident or lost a loved one to this type of automobile crash should seek legal counsel. An experienced attorney can review the details of your case and provide guidance on the best way to ensure your legal rights and remedies are protected.