Drugged driving vs. drunk driving

This week’s question is in regards to what the difference is in a drugged driving compared to a drunk driving, with a second part being how someone can be charged with drugged driving if they have a valid prescription for the drug.

Over the last several years, Michigan has seen a steady increase in fatal crashes involving drivers impaired by drugs. In 2016, there were 236 drug-involved traffic fatalities, which was an increase of 32 percent from 179 drug-involved traffic fatalities in 2015.

MCL 257.625(1) Operating While Intoxicated states, “A person… shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles … within this state if the person is operating while intoxicated. As used in this section, “operating while intoxicated” means any of the following: (a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance or a combination of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance.”

MCL 257.625(2) states, “The owner of a vehicle or a person in charge … of a vehicle shall not authorize or knowingly permit the vehicle to be operated upon a highway … within this state by a person if any of the following apply:

(a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, other intoxicating substance, or a combination …

(b) The person has an alcohol content of 0.08 grams or more …

(c) The person’s ability to operate the motor vehicle is visibly impaired due to the consumption of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance, or a combination of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance.”

Under MCL 257.625(2) in simpler terms, anyone who operates a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, other intoxicating substance, which would include a medication prescribed to you by a doctor if it affects your ability to drive, or any combination can be charged with Operating While Intoxicated if there is potential for them to come into contact with a member of the public.

Under MCL 257.625(8) it states, “A person, whether licensed or not, shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general … within this state if the person has in his or her body any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule 1 … or of a controlled substance described in section 7214(a)(iv) of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7214.”

In simpler terms, MCL 257.625(8) includes being under the influence of a drug, not prescribed by a doctor such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and so on.

In effort to combat the dangers of drugged driving, last month five Michigan counties — Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw — began participating in a one-year oral fluid roadside drug testing pilot program established by the Michigan State Police.

The pilot counties were chosen based on several criteria, including the number of impaired driving crashes, impaired drivers arrested, and trained Drug Recognition Experts in the county.

DREs are police officers who have received highly specified training which allows them to identify drivers impaired by drugs. Although the pilot program is being organized and managed by the MSP, DREs employed by county, township and municipal police agencies will also be involved.

Under the pilot program, a DRE may require a person to submit to a preliminary oral fluid analysis to detect the presence of a controlled substance in the person’s body if they suspect the driver is impaired by drugs. The preliminary oral fluid analysis will be conducted by a DRE on the person’s oral fluid, obtained by mouth swab and will be administered along with the drug recognition 12-step evaluation currently used by DREs. Refusal to submit to a preliminary oral fluid analysis upon lawful demand of a police officer is a civil infraction.

Both drunk driving and drugged driving are very dangerous to the impaired driver in addition to all the members of the public they may encounter. There really is no difference in the criminal aspect of a drugged or drunk driving offense. The person, if found guilty of Operating While Intoxicated or Under in the Influence of Drugs, would be charged with a 93-day misdemeanor, could serve 360 hours community service, and have fines of not more than $250. Not to mention all the additional charges the driver will face such as increased insurance, restitution for damage or injuries caused to someone else, and the cost of a towing bill.

Ashley Simpson is a Community Service Trooper for the MSP Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at asktroopersimpson@gmail.com or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave, Alpena, MI 49707.