Vote on Bad DUI Bill Scheduled for Jan. 13!

You might remember that last January we opposed two bills that offered to expand DUI laws.  The more nefarious of those two bills was unanimously killed, but the second, HB 665, was retained by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee for further study.  To our surprise, the committee voted this fall to recommend HB 665 “ought to pass” in a 9-7 vote.  This bill will be voted on by the full House of Representatives Wednesday, Jan. 13 (the Jan. 7 vote was postponed), and we need to send a clear message to legislators that this bill should NOT be passed.

 

It is already illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or any “controlled drug” in New Hampshire, but the language proposed in HB 665 significantly broadens the existing DUI policy: “driving… under the influence of a chemical substance natural or synthetic, or its metabolites.”  This language is disturbingly vague (do you drink coffee or take over-the-counter sinus medication, for example?!?!), and we believe it will likely lead to DUI arrests and prosecutions for drivers in New Hampshire who are NOT impaired, but might yet test positive for “a chemical substance, natural or synthetic, or its metabolites.” 

 

As you may know, metabolites can remain in the body for a month or more after marijuana is last eaten or inhaled.  In fact, one person testified at a hearing last year that he had failed a urine test two full months after quitting marijuana for a new job.  Unless we believe this person was impaired for 60 days after using marijuana, we have to understand the obvious truth that metabolites are not an indicator of impairment.

 

To be clear, this bill would not make it a crime to drive unless you are actually "under the influence," but to quote from the minority report (the opinion of the 7 reps who opposed the bill in committee), “There is no legal standard of measurement based on scientific or other criteria, to determine limits on the amounts of metabolites that could lead to impaired or reckless driving behavior.  Without such specific standards, even a trace amount of metabolites could be construed to be a contributing factor, whether valid or not, in assessing impaired or reckless driving events.”

 

Members of NH law enforcement have often tried to say the effects of smoking marijuana can last up to 24 hours, so it is reasonable to

expect that they would make some pretty bad calls on who to arrest under this expanded definition.  Please call and/or write your representative(s) today (find them here) and ask that they vote "NO" on HB 665.

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