According to the Nebraska State Patrol, law enforcement officers will be out monitoring sobriety check points soon as part of their annual spring check point period. Although check points are not new, something that is new is that officers are expecting to encounter more drug impaired drivers this year than in years past. Nationally, the issue of drugged driving has been in the spotlight in recent years as well as statistics appear to confirm that the incidences of drug impaired driving are increasing across the country.
Lieutenant Jamey Balthazor, of the NSP, offered some shocking statistics out of Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska. In 2013 there were 21 drug impaired driving arrests throughout the entire year for the county. That figure more than doubled the following year (2014) with 43 drug impaired driving arrests in Scotts Bluff County. This year, there have already been over 20 drug impaired driving arrests and we are only four months into 2015. Lieutenant Balthazor indicated that many of the arrests were for being under the influence of marijuana; however, arrests were also made for driving under the influence of other illicit drugs as well.
Drugged driving has been the subject of much confusion in recent years in some states across the nation with the de-criminalization of marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal in Nebraska; however, even if it were legal, it can still be illegal to drive while impaired as a result of the use of the drug. Drug impaired driving is not much different than alcohol impaired driving in the sense that consuming alcohol is not illegal but driving while impaired by alcohol is illegal. A motorist, for example, could have a perfectly legitimate prescription for narcotics, making it legal for the motorist to possess and consume the medication. If, however, the medication impairs the motorist’s ability to safety operate a motor vehicle it could lead to an arrest and conviction.
Nebraska Revised Statutes 60-6, 196 is where the prohibition against impaired driving is found, reading in pertinent part as follows:
(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or be in the actual physical control of any motor vehicle:
(a) While under the influence of alcoholic liquor or of any drug; (Emphasis added)
Most people are familiar with the remainder of the statute that makes it illegal to driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or above but are unaware of the portion above that prohibits a motorist from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you have been arrested and charged with drugged driving, and you had a valid prescription for the controlled substance that forms the basis of the claim that you were impaired, you may have a valid defense and a chance to avoid a conviction. In that case, the State of Nebraska will have to convince a judge or jury that you were “under the influence”, a task that has historically been difficult to accomplish.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs in Nebraska it is imperative that you contact the Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense attorney.