UPDATE: Gov. Tomblin Proposes Law to Test Drivers for Drugs

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

UPDATE 2/18/13 @ 6:35 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- DUI or driving under the influence -- in 2013, believe it or not, it may not be what you think.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is proposing to clarify state law to make it clear police officers can test drivers for drugs, just as they can test them for alcohol. That includes retrieving blood or urine, if necessary.

"What's it's going to be is, if there's going to be probable cause," West Virginia State Police Sgt. Greg Losh said. "We can get search warrants for their blood, and they've got to give it up."

Currently, there are varying degrees of DUI in West Virginia when it comes to alcohol. The higher the level in the blood, the more serious the offense.

For narcotics and other prescription drugs, though, there's no such definition.

"It's not seen as aggravated like alcohol," Losh said. "If it's .15 or over, there's going to be a stiffer penalty. There's no bar for the drugs. It's just going to be under DUI, so that's kind of frustrating.

State Police also will being specially training some officers in drug recognition to examine drivers who appear impaired but have passed a breath test for alcohol.

WSAZ set out Monday to find out how all three states in our region deal with this growing problem of people driving under the influence of narcotics or prescription drugs.

In South Point, Ohio, as we were interviewing Highway Patrol troopers, a woman was being given a sobriety test. She was suspected of being under the influence of prescription medication.

Highway Patrol troopers have the legal right to request blood, urine or breath tests. Lawrence County has seen roughly 60 more DUI arrests, than in years past because of the abuse of prescription medications.

Operating a vehicle while impaired is a misdemeanor offense, unless you've been convicted a fourth time, then it becomes a felony.

"We have to take DNA if it's a felony," Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Chris Smith said. "We sent that DNA to a statewide database."

Kentucky State Police say by agreeing to get a driver's license, you agree to implied consent to be tested. A verbal refusal means the automatic loss of a driver's license.

"We are trained to pick up on clues while at a traffic stop," KSP Trooper Michael Murriell said. "We have the capabilities to select what test is beneficial, (breath, urine or blood) for that specific circumstance."



ORIGINAL STORY
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is proposing to clarify state law to make it clear that police officers can test drivers for drugs just as they can test them for alcohol.

State Director of Highway Safety Bob Tipton said the state police also will begin specially training some officers in drug recognition to examine drivers who appear impaired but have passed a breath test for alcohol.

If the officer determines the driver is impaired, they could proceed to further blood and urine testing.

In practice, drug testing is much more difficult than alcohol testing. Officers can use breath tests to test for alcohol, but drug testing requires more intrusive procedures, like blood or urine tests.

Tomblin first announced the legislation at his State of the State address on Wednesday.


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