Drunk-driving penalty changes for first time offenders advanced by NJ Senate panel

On Monday, committee hearings were held where proposed changes were made in how first time drunk driving offenders are punished. Processes like how bail is administered and how the negotiating process for unions are done, also received committee hearings.

Drunk Driving laws

According to a new bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, first-time drunk drivers will be given the option to install an ignition interlock device on their car instead of losing their license. The ignition interlock device will test the drivers breath to decide whether the driver is sober enough to drive or not. If the driver is found to be above the allowed limit, the device will prevent the car from starting. Currently, installation of an ignition interlock device is required after a second or subsequent drunk-driving offense.

The new bill aims to soften the potential impact a person suffers when their drivers license is suspended for a long period of time. Most first time offenders have to face a license suspension, simply because they were unaware of the law, or if they made a careless mistake, which might be too harsh in some cases. According to the current law, first-time offenders have to forfeit their license for at least three months, making it impossible for them to even travel to work.

The new bill would allow a judge to compress the license forfeiture to only 10 days when the ignition interlock device is installed.

MADD totally supports the mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices. A Spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving cited statistics to show that installation of these devices could reduce the number of fatalities caused as a result of drunk driving by about one third. MADD also gave figures stating that a total of 164 people died in New Jersey in 2012 because of drunk drivers.

News Source: www.NorthJersey.com

Standards for Stoned Driving could get a push from Congress

According to a new bill introduced on Thursday by Rep. Jared Polis, states would be require to have legalized recreational or medical marijuana in order to create a standard that will help determine when a driver will be considered to be driving under the influence of pot.

This new law, called the LUCID Act, does not set down a specific benchmark for impaired driving on a federal level. According to Scott Overland, the communications director for Polis, the congressman doesn’t intend to pursue a limit in the bill. He said, “The bill simply requires states with legal recreational or medicinal marijuana to have a standard. It doesn’t set a specific standard that they must have.”

So far, a total of twenty states, including the District of Columbia, have legalized marijuana in some form. Colorado was the first to legalize the use and sale of recreational marijuana.

Polis issued a statement in which he mentioned that it has become vital that we keep our roads safe by updating our driving under the influence laws as more and more states have turned towards implementing regulations to treat marijuana like alcohol. He said, “The LUCID Act creates a single federal standard that will protect the public from impaired drivers and train law enforcement officials to effectively identify offenders. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work quickly to advance this legislation and keep impaired drivers, no matter what impaired them, off the road.”

Apart from creating a federal standard, the legislation would also make a state eligible for additional funding, especially if it were in compliance with federal regulations. These regulations should prevent people to operate motor vehicles while intoxicated, by alcohol, marijuana or any other intoxicant.

The state of Colorado also launched a new campaign, hours before Polis made the announcement. This campaign entitled “Drive High, Get A DUI,” discouraged drugged driving and was aimed at reminding drivers that intoxicants like marijuana do affect their ability to operate a vehicle. It also stated that driving under the influence of pot can lead to charges similar to those faced by drunk drivers. In the state of Colorado, a DUI charge can cost up to $10,000.

While the new bill is under consideration, a debate continues which discusses how exactly drivers are affected who drive after taking pot. The debate also discusses matters which will make sure that only truly impaired drivers are slapped with DUI charges. With marijuana, the person is affected based on how frequently that person gets stoned. For some drivers, even a little bit of pot can make it harder for them to remain alert, while for others, the same amount of pot may have a different impact.

There is also no fully reliable method to test for THC, which is marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient. Police and law enforcement officials only depend on blood and urine samples taken from the offender to determine how much THC is present in the bloodstream. The level of THC to be considered to be more than the recommended level varies from state to state. For example, 5 nanograms of pot in the bloodstream is considered to be too much in the state of Colorado.

This again depends on how frequently the user takes pot. An infrequent user could test below the 5-nanogram limit, but still be too impaired to drive safely. Another debate when it comes to marijuana impairment is that THC remains in the blood stream for an extended period of time, so a frequent user may have THC in their blood even if they took it a couple of days ago. Other studies reveal that the presence of THC itself does not increase the probability of a crash. There is still a debate going on when it comes to measuring and recording the dangers of high driving.

The Colorado Department of Transportation issued a press release that stated, “In 2012, there were 630 drivers involved in 472 motor vehicle fatalities on Colorado roadways. Of the 630 drivers involved, 286 were tested for drugs. Nearly 27 percent of drivers tested had a positive drug test, with 12 percent testing positive for cannabis.” According to these numbers, it is not clear who exactly was at fault when the accidents happened. The numbers also do not show which drugs these people tested positive for.

News Source: www.HuffingtonPost.com


Township Police Officer charged after trying to have a relatives DWI dismissed

ROCKAWAY TWP. – 34-year-old Clifton Gauthier of Sparta was charged with official misconduct and other crimes on Monday after he alleged tried to get a relative’s DWI ticket dismissed.

The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office charged him with official misconduct, obstruction, witness tampering and hindering prosecution of another. His record shows that Gauthier was hired in July 2005 in the township and was earning $108,525 annually. He was suspended after the incident. However, there is no information available to specify whether Gauthier was suspended with or without pay.

Both Gauthier and his defense lawyer could not be reached on Friday for questioning.

Police records show that Gauthier had a male relative identified as N.S. Gauthier who was ticketed for DWI in Rockaway Township by a state trooper on Feb. 9, 2012. When the trooper approached him upon his request, he suggested that he didn’t need to appear in township Municipal Court for trial because the charge was resolved.

The municipal prosecutor at the time, Denis Driscoll, contacted the trooper whom N.S. Gauthier informed that he did not need to appear in court. An investigation was started in the matter.

According to the Township Mayor, Michael Dachisen, Gauthier is a good officer who served several military tours in Iraq. The relative whom he allegedly tried to assist was either a cousin or an uncle. That was the only information available on the matter.

Gauthier was suspended after the investigation and is scheduled to appear in Superior Court next week. Police Chief Walter Ardin Jr. could not be reached for comments.

Gauthier will receive initial discovery on the charges. According to the case files, Gauthier committed an unauthorized exercise of his position when he suggested to the trooper not to appear on the scheduled court date so he could try to help a relative obtain a dismissal of the charge.

Gauthier faces a serious offence of official misconduct, the most serious of which can be a second-degree crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison upon conviction. He may also face automatic forfeiture of his public job and future public employment.

News Source: www.DailyRecord.com