Sunday, December 8, 2013

NEW YORK DWAI DRUGS; Is "Drugged" Driving "Impaired" Driving?

New York DWAI PSAs are good!

This is a PSA from the NYS DMV. I think it's a great message but it is confusing to many people. I get phone calls that ask me, "if I smoked or drugged yesterday, can I drive today?" My answer is usually don't drive if you cannot drive in a safe and responsible manner regardless of when you took something. This would be true whether you were tired, upset, or under the influence of anything that affected your ability to drive safely. Heard of "Road Rage?" People that are really angry should not be driving. That would not be safe driving either.

DRUGS can affect YOU (but ,,,, ON is NOT always Impaired)

The truth, drugs (alcohol is one of them) can influence your ability to drive. They can also influence your ability to think, walk, talk, and a million other functions. Many people are "on" drugs but the real question is always: Are they "impaired" by these drugs that they are ON?

I say this tongue in cheek because there are hundreds of drugs (prescription and OTC) that can affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally. In this country there are a great many people taking drugs and nutritional supplements daily. ON does NOT always equal Impaired.

First, what do prescription and OTC drugs really do? 

Generally drugs work by speeding up or slowing down a normal natural function of an organ or organ system. The body seeks homeostasis. Hemostasis is the body's normal natural point of balance. The yin and yang of function. Up and down, at a pace. Your heart beats at a normal natural rhythm, and your body releases insulin at a normal natural rhythm until it doesn't.

Drugs assist people by either increasing or decreasing and/or enabling a natural bodily function. Those that require (and are prescribed) drugs have bodies that are not normally regulating these functions. There are drugs that increase the release of insulin, can cause our hearts to slow down, or can supply us with hormones we are no longer naturally producing.

Second, all drugs have a variety of effects. 

We take them for one thing, but they will also do many other things to us. These are termed "side effects." Side effects may be considered the "bad" effects of a drug. The affects we don't want. They can be minimized but they generally can not be completely eliminated.

Third, you must take your medications based upon your doctor's direction and guidance but remember that you are ultimately responsible for their affect upon you. 

As a driver you must be "fit" to drive. Driving fitness requires that you: have awareness, have the ability to multi-task (divide your mental attention), be able to focus, and to respond to changes as you perform as a driver. Driving is performance oriented.

Main Take-Away: Use of all medications must be accompanied by your understanding of their effect upon you and your ability to perform (drive). 

Drug Concentrations and Half Life

All drugs have a "half life." Meaning that your body eliminates the drug from your body over a period of time. Alcohol and other drugs (and many other substances) are toxic to the body. Upon ingestion, your body will begin the process of detoxication. Detox takes time. Some drugs are at a level of half their quantity in your system over a specific period of time. Marijuana has a long half life. I guess one of the good things about alcohol is that it is eliminated by the body (detoxified) by about one drink per hour (generally).

I look to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) when checking recommended wait times (as to half life). You can't fly a plane unless you follow these guidelines as a pilot (and rightfully so). Is driving a car much different? We can argue this point but check this out as to pilots and sleep aids:

Pharmaceutical Considerations: Because of the potential for impairment, we require a minimum wait time between the last dose of a sleep aid and performing pilot or ATCS duties. This wait time is based on the pharmacologic elimination half life of the drug (half life is the time it takes to clear half of the absorbed dose from the body). The minimum required wait time after the last dose of a sleep aid is 5-times the maximum elimination half life. The table below lists several commonly prescribed sleep aids along with the required minimum wait times for each.
    Trade NameGeneric NameRequired minimum waiting time after last dose before resuming pilot or ATCS duties
    Ambienzolpidem*24 hours
    Ambien CRzolpidem (extended release)24 hours
    Edluarzolpidem (dissolves under the tongue)36 hours
    Intermezzozolpidem (for middle of the night awakening)36 hours
    Lunestaeszopiclone30 hours
    Restoriltemazepam72 hours
    Rozeremramelteon24 hours
    Sonatazaleplon6 hours
    Zolpimistzolpidem (as oral spray)48 hours

These guides are for sleep aids but other drugs would follow suit. 5 Times Half Life minimum to fly a plane safely. Some of these drugs require 2 or 3 days wait time before flying a plane.

Hey Snowflake, NOT Everyone is the Same

Of course, people are all different and they will also metabolize drugs differently. In fact, depending upon the given day, your body may metabolize (process) a drug faster or slower depending on a number of factors. How much sleep you had? Was it restful? What did you eat? What other drugs did you take? Your metabolism or the effect of a drug can also vary based upon your emotional state. This is even more variable if you don't know specifically what you are taking (as in elicit drugs). How much THC is in the pot you smoked? Who knows? The dangers of many illegal substances lie in their supposed "purity." Is it all this or that?

So in the end it's the Affect the drug (any drug) has upon YOU, and your ability to drive that really matters. Unfortunately, in many of the New York DW cases of DWAI drugs there is a car ACCIDENT as the main precursor to the charges. This is the ultimate in problem (dangerous) behavior.
Drugs alone or in combination can weaken your ability to perform many tasks. That is why most warning labels caution against USING HEAVY MACHINERY (i.e. a car).

Always consult with an attorney about any criminal or non-criminal charges you have pending to discuss your options and/or defenses.

Originally, born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. My father was a NYS corrections officer, and my mother a waitress. I now live in Ithaca, NY with my wife (of 25 years), and four kids. I have a B.S. in Human Biology, Doctorates in Law and Chiropractic, and a Post Graduate in Acupuncture. I practiced as a Chiropractic Physician in Florida from 1986 to 1995. I graduated law school in 1997, and went on to practice trial law in FL, NY, NJ, and PA. I love practicing criminal defense and injury law within the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.

Over 90% of the cases that I take on are New York DWI defense cases. I am certified as a breath tester by the Department of Transportation, the guidelines of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). I am certified in Field Sobriety Tests, and an active member of the National College of DUI Defense (NCDD). My online materials include over 470 blog posts, dozens of articles, and over 450 informative videos on my youtube channel.

I have co-authored Strategies for Defending DWI Cases in New York, in both 2011 and 2013. These are West Thomson legal manuals on New York State DWI defense, and focus on the best practices for other lawyers handling a New York DWI case. Included in Strategies for Defending DWI Cases in New York are materials I provide clients, such as my fee agreement and ways to avoid misdemeanor probation. I was selected by Super Lawyers as a Upstate New York 2013 Rising Star in DWI/DUI Defense based on my experience, contributions, and professional standing.