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Impaired driving laws being questioned

Legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts has brought additional legal questions. A state commission review of the state's marijuana legalization law could result in actions that can affect college students charged with OUI and underage drinking.

The OUI Commission was formed in accordance with the legalization law. It was assigned to study issues concerning driving while under the influence of drugs. These include the types of available drug testing, driver civil liberties, admissibility of evidence in court, police burdens and testing costs.

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In its recently issued report, the commission recommended applying the same open container law for alcohol to marijuana. Driving with an open container of alcohol, where the seal is broken and its contents are partially consumed, is illegal.

There are no similar laws against driving with an open container of marijuana. The commission said that this should be a civil infraction with a $500 penalty because a survey showed that high school students are more likely to smoke marijuana in a car.

Some experts and attorneys questioned enforcement of this recommended law. Some drivers may be carrying edibles or oils. Marijuana could have been left in a vehicle for weeks.

The commission also recommended that the state should suspend the license of a driver who refuses to submit to a roadside drug test. It suggested a 6-month suspension period which mirrors the suspension time for refusal to take a breathalyzer test for suspected drunk driving.

Other recommendations included requiring hospitals to draw blood when a blood test is administered on suspected drivers, setting the amount of compensation for this testing and providing for their immunity.

Electronic warrants should be utilized for obtaining a blood test. Currently, police must go to their station to complete a warrant and then to a clerk. This is potentially burdensome and the suspect's body can process the drugs during that delay.

OUI and underage drinking suspects may be facing new laws that can have long-term consequences. They should seek immediate legal representation to assure that their rights are protected.

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