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Standards for Opioid Intoxication When Driving

pills and a judge's gavel on a table

The opioid crisis is the headline on local and national news every day. Daily, more than 115 people in the United States die after an opioid overdose. Prescription pain pills, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl cause those who are addicted to the drugs to contribute to the rising costs of healthcare, lost productivity, treatment expenses, and involvement with the criminal justice system, while also harming themselves.

Here at Khonsari Law Group, we are in the business of assisting drivers charged with driving under the influence of drugs. Although driving while impaired by opioids is more difficult for police to measure, law enforcement now uses some methods to calculate a driver’s level of impairment. If you are charged with driving under the influence of opioids in St. Petersburg, call Khonsari Law Group at (727) 269-5300 today to obtain a consultation at no charge to you.

Opioid Impairment Guidelines

Although alcohol is the most frequent cause of DWI, with marijuana a close second, driving under the influence of illegal drugs was an act committed by 10 million persons in 2014, according to the 2014 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Florida, in 2016, reported 44 percent of drivers in fatal vehicle crashes tested positive for drugs, both prescribed and illegal.

Currently, it is legal to drive in Florida with illegal drugs in a driver’s system. Most states have passed a “0 per se law,” which is a zero tolerance per se law for those drivers who are younger than 21 and who have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02 or more, or for adults who have a BAC of 0.08.

This does not, however, apply to other drugs. Laws do prohibit driving under the influence of drugs, but the burden of proof to ascertain whether the driver is impaired is tough to meet.

Florida, at this time, has 236 trained Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) in several areas of the state, especially the most populated regions—more than one-half of Florida’s counties currently express a need for DREs. A DRE must complete all 12 steps of the one-hour-long evaluation of the driver to testify in court that, in his or her opinion, a suspect drove under the influence of drugs of some kind.

A DRE cannot evaluate an injured driver or a driver under paramedic care until the patient is stable, which is often hours after the patient’s alleged impairment has subsided. An uncooperative driver may prove incapable of responding to the evaluation.

DRE Behavioral Evaluations and Courts

Since assessments by DREs is often subjective, court cases can become unpredictable. Some states have approved laws that enable objective lab tests to support the behavioral evaluations with supplemental toxicological reports concerning the driver’s demonstrated impairment. Opponents of the zero tolerance laws say that the driving laws lack scientific consensus of a drug’s dose versus its impairment strength. Because of this, political and policy viewpoints may vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Call the Khonsari Law Group Today

Contact Khonsari Law Group online or call (727) 269-5300 for a free consultation in St. Petersburg. Let our highly trained and caring attorneys assist you in your defense. After we discuss your situation, we can begin to build your case to help you achieve the best outcome possible.

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