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Archive for the ‘Drug & DUI Law’ Category

How To Handle A Police DUI Stop

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Don’t drink and drive. Let’s make it even plainer – if you plan to get behind the wheel of a car at any time within a 24 hour period, don’t drink any alcohol. It’s been said many times, but people still don’t listen.

It’s an established fact that different people of various sizes metabolize alcohol differently, so don’t take a chance with your life and the lives of other by trying to judge how much alcohol you can drink before you are impaired. Even one or two drinks can cause you to have impaired judgment. Keep in mind that driving while impaired and driving while intoxicated are serious crimes.

However, since people often do stupid things, they are out there drinking and then driving their cars. If you do drink and drive and are stopped by the police, you can minimize the risk of being charged or convicted by following a few simple rules.

Be prepared. If you are organized and have all the proper documentation ready to hand to the officer, it will go a long way towards making you look good. Obviously, if you can’t find what you need, or are messing around looking for papers, you won’t make a great impression on anyone.

Be calm. If you are all upset and/or acting aggressively, you may cause an officer to believe this is a sign of impairment. Don’t get stressed out. When the officer approaches your car, roll down your window and keep your hands on the wheel. When addressed by the officer, respond politely and speak clearly.

Be quiet. Don’t admit to anything. If you are asked if you have had anything to drink, ask why they want to know, so they can describe the behavior that caused them to pull you over. If you admit to drinking they can and will administer a blood alcohol test. You are not obligated to answer any questions other than your name and address, and need only supply the officer with your documents.

Be polite. Don’t yell at or argue with the officer. Obviously, if you are overly aggressive or angry, the officer may feel that you are impaired and will insist on a sobriety or blood alcohol test. While it may be difficult to refuse to answer questions politely, it can be done if you keep your cool. If you are polite when answering initial questions, its possible that the officer may not even ask if you have been drinking.

Be smart. If you are asked to get out of the car, do so, but do not agree to any testing on the roadside, if you can. Avoid giving the officer any reason to administer the blood alcohol test. They cannot administer the test without a reasonable suspicion that you are impaired, so don’t give them one. However, if the officer insists on a sobriety or blood alcohol test, you may have to submit to testing, as there could be severe penalties for a refusal to take the testing.

Remember, your best bet is to never drink and drive. That way, you don’t have to worry about remembering any of these rules.

Is medical marijuana illegal?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Marijuana is the most commonly abused illegal drug in the United States of America. In 2004, 14.6 million Americans used marijuana at least once. Many people argue that the drug should be made legal because it is so common. Some people even use marijuana as a form of medical treatment. But, as of today, marijuana is still identified as an illegal drug. Though the federal government opposes the use of marijuana for medical purposes, medical marijuana laws vary from state to state. Since 1996, twelve states have legalized the use of medical marijuana. These states are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

According to certain studies and surveys conducted across the country, marijuana is used in treatment for over 250 medical conditions. Some of these conditions include cancer, AIDS and hepatitis. Marijuana helps ease the nausea and anorexia associated with these diseases. Recent studies have shown the drug to be effective in treating mood disorders and mental health issues such as depressions, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic attacks as well.

However, the Food and Drug Administrations has not approved the use of marijuana for medical treatment. The FDA disapproves of medical marijuana because they believe that marijuana is easy to abuse, “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” They also believe that there is sound evidence to support the fact that smoking marijuana is damaging because it contains more than 400 different chemicals, including most of the hazardous chemicals found in tobacco smoke, and can negatively affect the brain, reproductive organs, hormones, lungs and the immune system.

Dozens of medical organizations have stepped forward and endorsed allowing patients to use marijuana for medical purposes providing their physicians’ approval. Some of these organizations include Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Public Health Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Nurses Association, British Medical Association, AIDS action, American Academy of HIV Medicine, Lymphoma Foundation of American and Health Canada.
Despite certain health benefits, marijuana remains illegal in the United States. Possession and distribution will be prosecuted accordingly. It has been estimated that an average marijuana clinic, a place where you can obtain marijuana for medical reasons and use it on the premises, consumes about a pound of cannabis per day.

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court approved the Federal Government’s position that federal law allows people who have marijuana to be prosecuted regardless of the defense that it is for medicinal purposes, even in states that exempt its prohibition for medical purposes. Therefore, if you are caught using marijuana it can be considered a crime regardless of whether or not you are using it for medical reasons. According to the U.S. Penal Code, an individual can be imprisoned for up to one year if he or she is caught with marijuana and imprisoned for up to five years for growing a single marijuana plant.

Underage drinking: laws and prevention

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

The minimum age to purchase alcohol was first established because authorities wanted to limit access among teenagers.

Regardless of this, underage drinking is still a problem in the United States. Alcohol is the number one drug teenagers use on a regular basis. As a result, there are many adolescents who are putting their lives and health at risk. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, underage drinkers consume nearly 3.6 billion drinks a year, which adds up to 10 million every day. The price tag of underage drinking adds up to more than $58 billion per year.

The legal drinking age has been 21 for a long period of time now. Since July 1988, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have had laws that require individual to be at least 21 years or older if they plan on buying alcohol. Zero tolerance is effective and certain studies indicate that minimum drinking age requirement reduces crashes among drivers who are younger than 21. All states currently have zero-tolerance laws as well as laws that make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink and drive.
School prevention programs used to be informational, but they often used certain scare tactics to keep kids from drinking.

These programs were not that effective, however, and there are programs out there today which address the pressure to fit in that is often involved with drinking. We need to teach adolescents how to avoid these kinds of peer-pressure situations rather than scare them. These programs also offer resources for teachers and mentors so that they can positively influence kids on the effect of alcohol.

Parents also have the ability to influence their children regarding alcohol by setting rules against drinking and consistently enforcing those rules. As a parent you want to help prevent you child from drinking, you don’t want to provider them with alcohol. Young people who begin drinking at a young age are more likely to become dependent on alcohol as they get older. Educate your children on the affects of alcohol and the responsibilities of drinking.

Alcohol is readily available and highly advertised. It is everywhere, so much so that many people believe that it is just a normal part of growing up. The fact is that underage drinking is dangerous and causes a multitude of consequence including alcohol-involved motor vehicle crashes, homicides, suicides, fights and other such incidents. Alcohol can also be damaging to your health as it increases the risk of transmitted sexual diseases. People are more sexually driven when under the influence of alcohol, which opens the door for physical or sexual assaults.

Underage drinking is still a big problem in this country and results in serious health and safety consequences. And despite the many prevention programs available and zero-tolerance laws in every state, the rate of underage drinking continues to rise. Know the law. If you are under the age of 21, you are not able to purchase or be in possession of alcohol.

The difference between DUI and DWI

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t drink and drive. But not everyone knows the difference between DUI and DWI. Both acronyms are terms that refer to operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or illegal drugs. Throughout the United States, the laws regarding DUI and DWI vary.

DUI stands for driving under the influence and can be classified as a lesser charge in some states due to the level of intoxication. The level of intoxication is determined by an individual’s blood alcohol level at the time of arrest. New York State distinguishes a DUI from a DWI charge by maintaining a blood alcohol level of .08 as the legal limit. Any level .08 or higher is considered a DWI. If an individual registers a blood alcohol level of .07, the charges may then be reduced to a DUI.

DWI stands for driving while intoxicated or impaired. Any driver who has a blood alcohol level above the legal limit may be charged with a DWI. If you are driving erratically, speeding or veering from side to side, you may be pulled over and asked to take a Breathalyzer test. A Breathalyzer is an apparatus that measures an individual’s blood alcohol level. Refusal to take the test under suspicion of a DWI is classified as an admission of guilt. A field sobriety test may also be given in place of a Breathalyzer test. This test might include a heel-to-toe walk in a straight line, standing on one foot, reciting a portion of the alphabet, or other takes requiring mental acuteness.

If a law enforcement officer determines that you have been drinking and driving, or driving while under the influence of drugs, you will be taken to the nearest police station for further chemical tests and questioning. Offenders are often held in jail until court proceedings. A convincing defense attorney can sometimes get a DWI reduced to a DUI if certain conditions are met.

These conditions may include the defendant’s display of remorse, a blood alcohol level was slightly over the legal limit, or if the incident was classified as a first offense. A DUI carries a lesser punishment than a DWI.

Certain states throughout the country have developed a zero tolerance policy and do not recognize any difference between a DUI and a DWI offense. Any blood alcohol level that is measured over the specified limit is considered a crime that will be punished accordingly regardless. Other states may use DUI to classify a charge of driving under the influence of illegal drugs instead of alcohol.

Overall, the country as a whole has cracked down on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs whether particular states categorize DUI and DWI separately or not. The minimum illegal blood alcohol level of .08 applies to every state.

Though the language of DUI and DWI is constantly changing under the law, it is still important to be aware of the general meaning for each charge. Either way, it’s best to avoid drinking and driving altogether.

Mexico pushes for decriminalization of drugs

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

American drug laws are based on the classification of narcotics into five different groups, called Schedules.  Each Schedule is numbered I through V with the lower numbers being considered more dangerous in terms of addiction and bodily harm and the higher numbers having varying degrees of use within the American medical system.  Canada’s classification system runs on a similar theme with a few different drugs being classified in different ways to the American one.  For both countries, drug laws dictate different penalties depending on which drug is called into question and what its intended purpose was: personal use, trafficking, or initial production.  Prison sentences are decided based on what Schedule of drug is in question and the more dangerous drugs call for harsher sentencing.  In Canada, cannabis is set apart from other Schedule I drugs as it is seen as less harmful; oddly this has not meant its removal to a lesser Schedule as of yet. 

Mexican drug law is facing some drastic changes, which are being viewed as hazardous particularly by the American government.  President Vicente Fox is due to sign a bill that would effectively wipe out criminal drug charges for the possession of small amounts of any drug, even those though to be particularly dangerous.  The logic behind such a law is that regardless of legislation, people always have continued to partake of what are classified as dangerous drugs, and if they are going to do so on their own time there is no real risk to anyone else.  Using drugs like marijuana, cocaine and even heroin and speed will therefore become, if not acceptable practice, then at least not an illegal practice since the only person’s health at risk is the person using the drug.  Since small amounts of any drug are clearly for personal use and would not generally be sold then, like the Dutch form of drug tolerance, Mexico would likely see its drug users spending less time in court. 

Canada is also considering decriminalization of marijuana and the subject keeps rearing its head in provincial and federal governments.  The idea is not to encourage people to use drugs but to accept the fact that some people will regardless of legislation and to stop wasting tax dollars trying to stop them.  America is certainly not on board with this kind of thinking and with increasing pressure on both borders to loosen up strict drug laws the country is becoming uneasy.  Law enforcement agents expect that with such laws in place in Mexico and possibly Canada, drug trafficking between the three countries will become worse than it currently is and more Americans will be obtaining illegal drugs for their own use. 

If Mexico is to go ahead with this decriminalization, it would mean that the two countries to the north will be put in a position where they will have to decide their stance on personal drug use and possibly amend their own current drug laws. 

Will Americans ever have Legalized Pot?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

In 1978 the federal government of the United States decided that for medicinal purposes, Robert Randall could be allowed 300 marijuana cigarettes each month so long as they were supplied by a state controlled growing facility.  This case led the way to a handful of other people gaining the rights to smoke state provided marijuana, however in future years the first Bush administration decided to pull the plug on this endeavor.  While the people already taking legal marijuana were allowed to continue, there were no more medical cases taken on by the federal government and this is still the case today.

In 1996, however, California passed the Compassionate Use Act which allowed for medicinal use by its residents and following this bold move 12 other States have created similar programs for their citizens.  These States have decided that the drug can be put to good use in relieving pain for sick and dying people and as such they are willing to admit that there are not enough drawbacks to its use to maintain a full ban.  What this means for the future of legalized pot is up for debate, since the current federal government is still not folding under national pressure to decriminalize a drug that many people firmly believe is not harmful. 

The problem with decriminalization lobby groups is that the federal government still has a very strong anti-drug stance and any moves to even move marijuana out of the Schedule I class (those being classified as the most risky for addiction and bodily harm) have seen little backing.  Because of this, the current atmosphere is not warm towards the decriminalization of any drug and especially one that is so controversial.  America is not a country that leans on liberal tendencies when it comes to drug use, and it seems that the federal government remains staunch in its resistance to protesters who claim marijuana is both medicinally useful and of no harsh consequence with non-medicinal use. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a federal organization given the task of enforcing the Controlled Substances Act, and as such it is a federal body that often overrides State legislation by performing raids on medicinal grow crops.  Marijuana being a fully illegal substance in the eyes of the federal government (in fact as a Schedule I drug it is classified as having no accepted medicinal purpose) it remains under close scrutiny by the DEA and people harvesting or distributing it even under State legislation are in constant dread of being shut down by the federal government. 

In American’s current climate, marijuana decriminalization is definitely not on the table.  If State governments keep up the fight for medicinal use, however, the stigma surrounding the drug will eventually be brought down and perhaps in the very distant future we might see a softening of the drug laws specific to pot.  Let’s not bet any money on full decriminalization, but maybe it could get moved down to a Schedule II or III – who knows?

U.S. Drug Arrests besides Marijuana

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

In America today, the most common drug arrests come from the possession or sale of marijuana.  This is a drug with very widespread use and many people believe that its effects are not harmful in the long term.  Although drug users have effectively created several subcultures pertaining to their use or even in some cases to their addictions, it is interesting to know which drugs in particular are getting people caught out and actually arrested for their involvement, be it possession or sale of illegal narcotics.  Interestingly, although it is a completely different kind of drug to marijuana which is clearly the most used and sold in America, heroin is the second most likely drug to get you arrested.

Heroin actually ranks right up there with cocaine after marijuana use in the United States, and these two drugs are generally understood to be more addictive and potentially harmful to users than marijuana or most natural drugs.  Both are processed from naturally occurring elements however the production method leaves the substances extremely potent and dangerous.  Production workers who spend their lives processing cocaine from the coca leaves found in South America have to keep masks over their noses and mouths to prevent too much of the cocaine from being absorbed by their bodies.  Without the masks, enough drugs would be inhaled to kill them in a very short period of time.

Heroin is used differently than cocaine; where the latter is inhaled in powder form through the nose, heroin is cooked into a liquid, put into a needle and injected straight into the bloodstream.  This is a highly addictive drug and the sale of it is slightly more likely to get you arrested than the use.  Upon arrest for the use of heroin, you will be sentenced to some kind of treatment for the addiction (assuming you are addicted, and most people do plead as such if only to lessen the sentencing) and a short jail sentence or community service for any adjacent crimes committed while high or for the purpose of obtaining drugs. 

Following these three narcotics, the next most likely drugs to get you arrested, either for possession or sale, are the synthetic types.  This includes ecstasy, ketamine, crack-cocaine and several others which are processed and essentially manmade.  While the use of these drugs is also quite widespread, people are generally much less likely to walk around with large amounts on them or to keep a ‘stash’ at home; with marijuana users will often keep a bag with them or at home and therefore it is easier for police who decide to search to find what they are looking for.  Granted, synthetic drugs are not in use quite to the extent that marijuana is – after all they are often used in conjunction with a major party or event – however the use of them is more dangerous. 

Needless to say, if you smoke pot in America you are much more likely to wind up in handcuffs than if you use any other drug – a strange fact because it is perhaps the least likely to do any real damage to your health. 

The American Drug Classification System and You

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

The American government classifies all drugs into five different Schedules, Schedule I being considered the worst for addictive tendencies and bodily harm, and Schedule V being considered the least risky.  Where Schedule V drugs are used for medicinal purposes, Schedule I drugs are thought to be of no such use and are subject to harsh legislation concerning use or sale.  The main points of classification are whether the drug can be used in medicine and whether or not it has addictive qualities or long term health side effects:

Schedule I Drugs

This classification includes cannabis, heroin, MDMA and psilocybin, and the guidelines as set down by the American Controlled Substances Act are that these drugs have no medicinal purpose, are highly subject to abuse by users and that there are no safety guidelines set out for their use within the United States.  This is a controversial Schedule since it includes notably dangerous drugs such as heroin with drugs like cannabis and psilocybin which are used widely throughout the country illegally and are considered to have no long term negative effects.  Lobbyists have been trying to have cannabis removed from Schedule I classification for years and so far the federal government has no inclination to do so.

Schedule II Drugs

This classification dictates that the drugs are highly subject to abuse by users, that such abuse can lead to psychological or physical dependence and that despite these drawbacks they might be used for medical purposes within the United States.  Drugs on this list include morphine, cocaine and amphetamines which have all been subject to scrutiny by those researchers who believe they might be better in a different category so that more people might have access to them for medicinal purposes.  These drugs are all subject to very strict medical guidelines and very few people in the country will have access to them.

Schedule III Drugs

These drugs are considered okay for medicinal use in the United States and to have a much lower risk of addiction than Schedule I or II drugs; while it is accepted that these may have moderate risk of physical or psychological dependence, medical guidelines dictate that their use may be helpful in some cases.  Drugs on this list include ketamine and anabolic steroids.

Schedule IV Drugs

These drugs are commonly found in prescriptions as they have an accepted use in medical treatments, are lower risk in terms of addiction (compared to Schedule III drugs) and they are thought to only provoke dependence for a limited time while being used.  These include mebrobamate and zolpidem.

Schedule V Drugs

These are considered very low risk for addiction and abuse, and also very low in terms of physical or psychological dependence.  Such drugs are commonly in use throughout the United States for medical purposes and they include codeine and pregabalin; a pain reliever and anticonvulsant respectively.  

What you need to remember is that the lower the number, the higher perceived risk with using and the more likely it is that use is in fact illegal!

Your Record after a DUI

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

There is no doubt that if you are convicted of driving under the influence that your record will be affected, but there are two aspects of the conviction, affecting two of your records. There is an administrative license suspension as well as criminal charges. Administrative license suspension is governed by administrative or civil law and affects your driving record and driver’s license. The criminal charges are governed by criminal law an encompass fines, fees, sentencing, parole and penalties. With an administrative license suspension, your driver’s license is taken away before you are convicted, usually right on the spot and most often when you fail or refuse to take a field sobriety test. After having your license suspended on the spot, most states require that you schedule an administrative hearing within five to 10 days. This administrative hearing has nothing to do with your appearance in court – it doesn’t dictate or rule whether you are guilty of a crime, but instead addresses the circumstances surrounding your arrest by answering questions such as:

·        Were you arrested on reasonable grounds?

·        Were you asked to take a field sobriety test?

·        Did the officer tell you the consequences of failing the sobriety test or refusing to take the test?

·        Did you refuse to take the sobriety test or fail it?

·        Should you have your driver’s license suspended?

When you have failed a drunk driving test you generally have to go to court to be sentenced. In most cases, a conviction of driving under the influence is a misdemeanor when there are no injuries involved, however driving under the influence can be classified as a felony if there has been serious injuries or a death as a result of your DUI. The sentencing at your court date will determine:

  • How your conviction of DUI should be classified, either as a misdemeanor or a felony.
  • What fines you need to pay.
  • What taxes you need to pay.
  • How long you will have your driver’s license suspended or revoked for.
  • Whether you can obtain a temporary license.
  • Whether you are eligible for parole.
  • Whether you need to do community service.
  • IF there is any drug programs or classes that you need to take and complete.
  • If you require an ignition interlock device to be installed on your vehicle.

  The penalties that you face when convicted of a DUI can be quite severe the first time and escalate for your second and third convictions. When you are convicted of a DUI, you have a criminal record which can stay on your record forever unless your state allows you to have it expunged. Everyone who checks your record – employers, creditors, credit bureaus and government agencies will be able to see your DUI conviction on your record. The best thing you can do when you are charged with a DUI is find an attorney to represent you and help you with you DUI case and record.

Insurance after a DUI

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Being charged with driving under the influence is a serious offense and the consequences can be both expensive and embarrassing. You will be subjected to fines, attorney fees and even license suspension, but further than that, there are long-term consequences that you will have to face as well, primarily your car insurance rates and coverage. DUI convictions are dealt with in one of two ways with your insurance company – they will either raise your insurance rates or simply cancel your insurance policy all together. Chances are that when you are convicted of a DUI, your insurance company will find out about it. If your insurance company decides to raise your premiums and keeps you insured, chances are they will label you as a ‘high risk driver’. Many of the states require that your insurance company provide the Department of Motor Vehicles for that state with an SR-22 proof of insurance certificate, which removes the suspension on your license showing that you are insured with your vehicle. However, not all insurance companies offer SR-22 policies. If your insurance company does not offer SR-22 insurance policies, you may have your insurance cancelled simply because they can no longer insure you. The laws in some states furthermore state that insurers can not cut off your insurance policy in the middle of a term – be sure to check the laws where you live to find out if this applies to you. There is a small chance that your insurance company will not find out about your DUI, perhaps because it slipped through the cracks of all the red tape. On some occasions, your insurance company won’t raise your rates because you’ve been insured with them for a long time and you have a pristine driving record otherwise, while this sounds very nice and dandy, it’s very unlikely to happen. If your insurance policy is cancelled or not renewed, you should still be able to find insurance, however it will likely be with a different insurance company and none of the preferred carriers. Some of the other well known insurance companies and smaller companies will be able to file an SR-22 for you and your license may then be reinstated. Do not doubt that your insurance rates will indeed rise. A DUI stays on your driving record for a minimum of five years and perhaps as long as the rest of your life, depending on the state that you live in. Some states and insurance companies may also require you to have a breathalyzer box in your vehicle after a DUI. The breathalyzer box is connected to your vehicle and you must breathe into it in order to start your vehicle. There’s a catch to this system as well – the box will beep occasionally and at random intervals while you are driving. When it beeps you have a set period of time to blow into the box or your vehicle becomes disabled. If you are looking for insurance coverage after you have been charged with driving under the influence, it’s best to go through an independent insurance agent who works with many insurance companies to find you the best insurance coverage you can get, at the best price.