Common Misconceptions about DUI-Alcohol and DUI-Drugs Cases and Substance Abuse in America
Impaired drivers often are misinformed as to how broad our DUI-DWI Laws are in AmericaSome people believe that they must be "drunk" or "stoned" on drugs to be convicted of DUI/DWI. Others believe that they had to "intentionally" consume too much alcohol and then operate a car, truck or other "motorized" vehicle. Most people think that the vehicle they are in must be moving, or the engine running to be at risk of being charged with and convicted of drunk driving.
None of the foregoing assumptions is true today in America. Our impaired driving laws have been continuously broadened over the past 30 years and (on an almost annual basis) have been made ever-more sweeping in their reach. Presently, in many states, a man sitting on a 4 wheel ATV in the middle of a private 4000 acre farm, with the key in the ignition and the engine off, can be arrested for DUI-DWI.
A steady erosion of a citizen's rights in the field of constitutional law, criminal law and criminal procedure has occurred. Egregiously bad case law and pro-conviction statutory enactments have been the norm.
The first reported DUI fatality is a news report from 1896 in Great BritainFrom the earliest days of wheeled transportation (or even when we only had four-legged beasts as vehicles), intoxicated "operators" have chosen to get drunk and then try to travel to their chosen destination. An intoxicated cowboy who rode his horse back to the ranch after playing poker and swigging whiskey at the saloon seldom caused anyone (but himself) a problem, but the potential to pose a danger to others was certainly there. If he drunkenly raced through town on his horse while pedestrians walked across the dusty streets of Dodge City, an innocent person could be killed or seriously injured by such action. In those days, no laws specifically prohibited such dangerous drunken acts, however.
In England, the first reported vehicle death from an automobile-pedestrian collision (not involving alcohol) was reported in 1896:
"On 17th August 1896 Bridget Driscoll was killed in Crystal Palace by a horseless carriage traveling at 4 m.p.h." This was the first reported DUI fatality ."
News media across the United States give priority to Drunk Driving Cases over many other crimes of a more serious natureIn 2009, reports of accidents, particularly those involving suspected drunken drivers, dominate the police blotter and televised news reports of most media outlets across America. A DUI/DWI accident by a celebrity is far more likely to make the evening news today than a child molestation case.
In the last decade, a proliferation of DUI-DWI "drugs" cases have been decided at our local and appellate courts. Before 1980, fewer than 100 DUI-DWI appeals involving impairment by drugs exist in all of American case law. More and more American motorists are taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications that can (and often do) make the driver less capable of reacting to sudden emergencies. Now hundreds of cases each year show up in appellate records. Furthermore, in the last 10 years or so, police officers have been trained on "drug recognition" techniques that assist them in identifying drivers who have taken drugs that impair drivers or have used both alcohol and impairing drugs.
The Federal Governmet tracks trends in drug usage to determine whether substance abuse is diminishing or increasingThe explosion of illicit drug use cases in America is a point of major concern in the health and public highway safety arenas. The federal government spends millions of dollars taking comprehensive surveys to determine how great the problem is. The information tabulated for 2002, set forth below, indicates how widespread the epidemic really is.
The most overlooked impaired driving cases are those involving "controlled substances" (drugs and other chemicals and plants that are criminally regulated by the government.) The number of people in America who choose to take some form of illicit drugs is growing each year. Many of the people who use these drugs also consume alcohol at the same time. Yet, a breath test (the most common testing method) does not uncover any drugs other than alcohol, meaning that many drug-impaired drivers are never held accountable for their impaired driving.
Over half of all Americans use alcohol regularly, and a substantial portion of people in this coutry also use drugs (prescribed or illicit)Recent statistics from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (for the year 2002) indicate these troubling numbers about alcohol, binge drinking and illicit drug usage:
[All statistics and percentages are for total population of Americans aged 12 or older]
Current Alcohol Users 120 million (51.0%)
Current Illicit Drug Users 19.5 million (8.3%)
Admit Driving Under the
Influence of Alcohol in 2002 33.5 million (14.2%)
[Drinkers at age bracket 21 were the highest percentage (70.9%)]
Number of illicit drug users who admit driving
under the influence of an illicit drug in 2002: 11.0 million (4.7%)
Admit to Binge Drinking (5 or more
Drinks before stopping) within last 30 days 54.0 million (22.9%)
The most commonly used illicit (contraband) drugs in AmericaMost Commonly Used Illicit Drug: (in prior 30 days)
Marijuana/Hashish 14.6 million
Cocaine (or Crack) Users 2.0 million
Hallucinogens 1.2 million
(About 1/2 of these were Ecstasy users)
Psychotherapeutic Drugs 6.2 million
Pain Relievers 4.4 million
Tranquilizers 1.8 million
Stimulants 1.2 million
Sedatives 0.4 million
Heroin 0.166 million
Age bracket most likely to take illicit drugs,
18-25 years old 20.2% (of age group admits use)
Identifying which Americans are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and determining how many cases go untreatedThe national survey also discovered the following troubling information:
Over 3.5 million Americans received some type of substance abuse treatment in 2002. Of these, 2.3 million went to a specialty treatment facility versus utilization of "self help." However, approximately 22.8 million Americans needed treatment for an alcohol and/or drug problem, which means only 1 in 7 Americans receives needed treatment annually for substance abuse issues.
Unemployed youthful substance abusers were more than twice as likely to abuse illicit drugs and alcohol as youth under age 21 who were employed. Looking at all age brackets, Asians had the lowest percentage of illicit drug use while persons of native Americans/Alaskan descent had the highest (4.8% compared to 10.1%). Native American/Alaskan youths ages 12 -17 had a 20.9% abuse rate.