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Legislative approaches to increasing Virginia's conviction rate for drug-related DUI.
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  • Abstract:
    Beginning on April 1, 1988, a revision of Virginia's law concerning drug-related driving under the influence (DUI) enabled police officers to require a person suspected of driving under the influence of drugs to submit a blood sample to be tested for drug content. However, some judges have been reluctant to pass down a DUI conviction in the absence of an established presumptive or per se concentration of a drug in the blood that indicates impairment. In fact, because of the complex chemical nature of most drugs and their varying effects on individuals, establishing a scientific link between a particular concentration of drugs in the blood and impairment is not possible, at least at this time. This study investigated if there were ways to amend VIrginia's laws to facilitate drug-related DUI convictions in the event of a finding of drugs in a suspect's blood. The researchers formulated three options for legislative amendments: two for criminalizing internal possession of drugs regardless of whether a person is driving, thus opening the way for a plea bargain to a reduced charge of drug-related DUI, and one for criminalizing the operation of a motor vehicle with a nonprescribed drug in the blood. An internal possession offense does not seem to be a feasible option for Virginia at this time. However, the researchers recommend that serious, but cautious, consideration be given to proposing that VIrginia's current DUI offense be revised to remove the requirement of showing impairment and permit a positive blood test for a nonprescribed drug to be sufficient evidence for conviction.
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