Governor Charlie Baker continues his push to crack down on drugged driving laws in Massachusetts. Baker’s legislation attempts to close many of the loopholes that allow motorists, such as the driver that killed State Trooper Thomas Cardy, to go free of penalty for driving under the influence of certain drugs and causing injury or death. Baker’s proposal, originally filed in 2019, has been refiled and named after Cardy, who was killed in 2016 during a traffic stop by a medical marijuana patient who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, but acquitted of driving under the influence of cannabis. As a personal injury lawyer in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for over 20 years, Attorney David Tapalian sees a tragic number of car accidents caused by drivers impaired by alcohol and other substances. While breathalyzers provide reliable blood alcohol content (BAC) levels, accurately measuring the level of other substances, like marijuana, in a driver’s body proves to be more difficult, and controversial.
Drugged Driving Bill in MA
The aim of Governor Baker’s drugged driving bill is to close gaps in the current laws that can allow motorists impaired by drugs such as cannabis, prescription medications, and other drugs, to be held unaccountable for these offenses. The proposal seeks to expand the 12-step drug recognition expert (DRE) training for police officers to identify whether a person is impaired and if so, by what substances. The DRE process includes specialized observations of the motorist as well as measurements of heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure. The bill would also subject suspected drivers to a blood test for THC (the primary active ingredient in marijuana) and require Massachusetts courts to recognize the DRE trained police officers as experts.