Police officers put their lives on the line every day. But usually driving is not the dangerous part of the job. However it seems nobody is safe from intoxicated drivers.
Early Sunday morning in Dallas, a 24 year-old man was so impaired by drugs that he crashed into a squad car — the last vehicle you would want to hit. Two police officers were injured and both received stitches for head wounds. The drugged driver was arrested and taken to jail.
A collision with a police officer is not a typical scenario, thank goodness, but drug driving accidents are extremely common these days. And with more people using both prescription and illegal drugs, this problem is just going to keep getting worse. Look at how wasted Tiger Woods was.
A study by the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 10 million people had driven on illicit drugs in the previous year. Think about that for a moment. These are just drivers who took illegal drugs before getting behind the wheel. Add to that staggering number all the people taking legal prescription drugs and drinking legal alcohol which can be even worse when you are driving a car or truck.
Of all fatal crashes involving drugs in 2010, 10 percent tested positive for cocaine, 37 percent for marijuana, and 47 percent for prescription medications.
What about prescribed medications?
In 2012, Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Senator Bobby Kennedy, wrecked her car, then managed to continue driving in a drug-induced stupor. She was extremely lucky that she didn’t hit anybody along the way.
She claims she accidentally took a prescription sleeping pill before driving to her gym. She was acquitted of driving while under the influence of prescription drugs in a trial that showed how difficult these cases can be when the drug is legal.
This case also demonstrates the difference between civil and criminal liability. The prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she intentionally took the dangerous medication, the high burden it needed to meet to convict her. Had she injured somebody, the plaintiff would only need to show by a preponderance of the evidence that she acted negligently in grabbing the wrong pill and getting into her car.
Proving a Drugged Driving Case
To prove civil liability in a drunk driving case, a personal injury lawyer relies on the evidence collected during the drunk driving criminal investigation. A driver is presumed impaired if his blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent or higher. A Breathalyzer test taken during the driver’s arrest often provides us with the clear evidence we need.
What about showing proof of drug use? We use much of the same type of evidence for drug impairment cases as we do for alcohol-related accidents. For example, we review dashboard video that depicts the defendant’s performance on the field sobriety tests and her overall conduct and appearance. Often, police reports contain valuable information as to the driver’s poor control over her vehicle prior to the crash. Things like swerving, lane drift, sudden braking, failing to brake, disobeying traffic signals and recklessness may indicate drunkenness or drug use.
Usually, officers obtain a warrant to take a blood sample to show the traces of drugs in the defendant’s body. There may also be drugs or drug paraphernalia in the car. If the drug is prescribed, we may also obtain the doctor’s information and drug company’s warnings as to the drug’s dangerous side effects.