Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pain Relievers - a Prescription for Trouble?

There’s a news item on KPRC’s website today worth considering before you head out on the highway, New kind of DWI turning deadly, which goes on to explain, “Drivers hooked on prescription pills (are) causing wrecks.”  I’m not so sure calling it a ‘new kind of DWI’ really fits since this has been going on long before I rode in a patrol car.  Being intoxicated and operating a motor vehicle; it really doesn’t matter if it’s from ‘illegal drugs’, prescription drugs or excessive use of alcohol.

“Intoxication is intoxication, no matter what substance causes it,” said (Warren) Diepraam, an assistant district attorney in Montgomery County.

The responsibility to operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner rests squarely on the individual sharing the roadway with everyone else.  There is no waiver of responsibility for having your abilities impaired simply because a prescription drug was taken.  There are warning labels on these items explaining how they can often impair judgment or physical abilities along with warnings not to operate machinery or in other ways endanger yourself or the public. 

There are some folks who either accidentally or intentionally abuse prescription drugs in order to get a ‘buzz’ or in some other way alter their perception of reality.  When this occurs in a motor vehicle it becomes more than a mind trip; often times ending in serious injury and death.

“…Diapraam cited two recent hospital studies show that twice as many car accident victims said they were under the influence of prescription pills than alcohol. In just two years, there’s been an almost 20 percent increase in DWI blood tests coming back positive for prescription drugs.”

That’s an alarming thought since most of the folks found to be intoxicated via prescription drugs tend to be driving during the daytime rather than going home from the local bar in the middle of the night as with a goodly number of alcohol related DWIs.

“The most popular prescription is a combination of Soma, Xanax and Hydrocodone. It’s the same combination showing up in many of those DWI blood tests.”

Soma and the many generic labels which cover the same basic drug are intended to be used as a muscle relaxing agent.  It’s often prescribed to be used with Hydrocodone which is a codeine based narcotic for pain symptoms. 

I should know; having dealt with a bad back most of my adult life, these medicines really do work.  Responsible individuals recognize the inherent dangers associated with such powerful drugs and stay home, get plenty of bed rest and allow the medicine to work as it was intended.

There is an element within our society which disregards the conventions of safety in favor of ‘turning on’, getting a ‘buzz’ or simply forgetting the problems which beset them.  What ever you call it, getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while consuming ‘mass quantities’ of controlled substances is a criminal act.  If you’re lucky enough to get caught prior to maiming or killing a fellow citizen you deserve the trip to the police lock-up, the expense of hiring an attorney and even an extended stay at the local jail.

There is a minor point which bothers me, at least from the legal stand point of making a case hold up in court.  How does the State determine the level of controlled substance necessary to influence behavior negatively, to the point of being criminally definitive?

As with any criminal proceeding, each point of law must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  In the case of DWI, Alcohol, each State has its own ‘arbitrarily’ established guideline when it comes to alcohol consumption.  If the State can prove the individual had, at the time he/she was operating a motor vehicle, a specific amount of alcohol which was measured and exceeded the legally established level, either by breath test or blood sample, then the point of law could be proven in court.  

What is the ‘arbitrary’ established guideline for a controlled substance in your system, as determined through a blood sample taken by a law enforcement entity?  Well now, how much, as a percentage of other elements in that blood sample, how much is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual was physically or mentally impaired?

Is that amount important?  I’ve been told certain ‘trace’ amounts of Hydrocodone can be obtained in a blood or urine sample months after having ingested this particular medicine.  If this is true then anyone who’s taken a pain pill in the past month or so could be arrested, tried and convicted in a court of law unless there are scientifically defined parameters assigned for criminal interpretations regarding controlled substances collected via blood tests.

Speaking as a retired police officer, there needs to be a very tight leash on law enforcement and the courts as pertain to bandying a charge of DWI, Controlled Substance, toward any individual.  Without such restrictions on law enforcement pain relievers identified in a blood sample, regardless of when taken or to what degree, are a prescription for trouble.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

1 comment:

Molon Labe! said...

You answered your own question--"how much is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt..."--with the word you used twice--"arbitrary".

And that's the problem with prior restraint--any law that presumes to prevent a crime punitively.

The key concept is "malum in se" vs. "malum prohibitum"--"bad in itself" vs. "bad that's prohibited".

The first we all recognize; it's common law, derived from Natural Law, the REAL law written, as it were, in our hearts. The law that's undeniable; fraud, theft, assault, rape, murder--acts which directly harm another and we all instantly recognize as wrong.

The second is the more nebulous "administrative" law--acts which the State prohibits, sometimes for good reasons...but nevertheless, arbitrarily.

malum prohibitum leads invariably to tyranny. It's laws like the 0.10--now, 0.08--BAC that's arbitrarily called "drunk driving", and carries life-altering punishments. Some states are now pushing, or being pushed, for 0.05; where does it end? With 24-ounce Cokes being outlawed? Salt restrictions? Ah, see?

Prior restraint, like BAC, doesn't take into account individual variances. Many drinkers have more than enough tolerance to function effectively at 0.10 BAC. Drivers vary tremendously in their skill; there are exceedingly competent drivers and unbelievably stupid drivers. A good driver at 0.10 is better than a bad driver texting on her cell phone; statistics show, in fact, the texter is six times as dangerous.

So how can the State ruin someone's life for a potential crime? THAT'S the issue.

And the only solution is to return to Common Law--no victim, no crime. Live and let live. No harm, no foul.

Let's try another tack: does it matter, when someone causes a wreck, WHY they caused it--intoxication, inattention, dropped a cigarette, texting, or just plain incompetent? They've caused damage. They are liable to make the injured party whole.

Injecting the State is a slippery slope. Prior restraint may start "reasonably" at 0.10 BAC--but it will delve deeper and deeper until everyone lives in a straight-jacket.

Do away with malum prohibitum. Punish actual crime; make the victims whole; and leave people the hell alone unless they cause harm.