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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Drugged driving on the rise

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration included Washington and other parts of the Pacific Northwest on its list of regions with a spike in traffic deaths in 2015. Overall, for the first nine months of that year, traffic fatalities jumped 9.3 percent nationwide from the comparable period in the previous year, and experts have assigned partial blame to the opioid epidemic and the use of other illicit drugs.

Although alcohol consumption remains the top source of intoxicated driving, law enforcement personnel across the country have reported finding increasing numbers of people overdosed on heroin in their cars. A person who works with addicts said that heroin addicts might choose to use in their cars because they cannot wait to get home to use their drugs. They want to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

The use of all types of intoxicants appears to be prevalent according to the 2014 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. The survey's results showed that approximately 10 million people reported that they had operated a vehicle after abusing prescription medications or using heroin, cocaine, tranquilizers or marijuana.

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated could lead to a person's arrest and conviction on criminal charges. Someone accused of impaired driving has the right to legal counsel. An attorney could provide advice about the defendant's rights. An attorney might also develop a defense strategy after reviewing the evidence. Mistakes made during the administration of a sobriety test could be grounds for an attorney to request the exclusion of evidence. A prosecutor might also consider dropping or reducing charges if the attorney arranges for the defendant to attend an alcohol or drug abuse program.

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