The Des Moines Register, Friday, March 13, 1998, Page 4M
Senate OKs bill targeting drug-using motorists
Drug users who get behind the wheel of an
automobile would face an increased risk of criminal prosecution under a bill
approved Thursday in the Iowa Senate.
Lawmakers voted without dissent to extend provisions of Iowa's
drunken-driving law to users of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and other heavy drugs.
The effect, supporters say, is that prosecutors will have an easier time charging
drug-impaired drivers whose blood-alcohol content measures below the 0.10 threshold for
drunken driving in Iowa.
"We have drivers out there who are high on drugs and who are a
danger to the public," said Sen. Larry McKibben, R-Marshalltown, who managed the bill
in Senate debate. The bill, he said, would close a loophole that often allows
drugged drivers to escape punishment.
McKibben said it's possible but very difficult to prosecute a
drug-impaired driver under Iowa's current operating-while-intoxicated law. Because
the statute sets no legal threshold for non-alcohol drugs, prosecutors now face the
problem of proving impairment without an objective standard on which to rely.
The Senate-approved bill
would change that by outlawing any detectable levels of what are known as Schedule I and
Schedule II drugs - those that state and federal laws already identify as the most likely
candidates for abuse.
If approved by the House and signed by the governor, Iowa would become
just the seventh state to adopt the strategy for dealing with the death and destruction
caused by drug-impaired drivers.
Iowa Department of Public Safety statistics show 34 percent of blood
tests on fatally injured drivers found drugs other than alcohol.
Among other problems with current law, McKibben said, is that a
drug-irnpaired driver can refuse a sobriety test without fear of penalty. That
differs from alcohol-impaired drivers, for whom the act of driving implies consent to a
The Senate bill
would close that loophole, he said.
Reporter Thomas, A. Fogarty can be
reached at email@example.com
or (515) 286-2533.
The Des Moines Register
Friday, March 13, 1998, Page 4M