Ask an Official: MPD’s Tesch discusses drugged driving vs drunk driving
This week’s featured question was submitted for an officer of the Merrill Police Department
The question reads:
“I have a few questions about drugged driving. If special tests and a breathalyzer can tell if someone is drunk, how does an officer know if someone is drugged driving, besides smell and so on? What happens when you are caught drugged driving? Do you just get a fine or are you arrested and taken to jail and so on? Can someone actually be sentenced to jail for it? Thanks.”
Answer as given by MPD Certified Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Officer Tyler Tesch:
“In the State of Wisconsin, all law enforcement officers receive a minimum of four hours of training as it pertains to drivers who operate under the influence of drugs as opposed to alcohol. The skills taught in those four hours are extremely basic and or more or less in an introduction to what is a diverse and specialized topic in law enforcement. Officers who chose to broaden their level of knowledge in the area of drugged driving beyond the basics, can seek out additional training such as a 16 hour course called Advance Roadside Impaired Driving Education (ARIDE).
“In this course some additional testing measures are taught to the officers’ help identify and determine the type of drug the person may be using. Some officers chose to take their knowledge in this topic beyond that by attending Drug Recognition Expert training (less than 1/10th of 1% of American Law Enforcement). This training can last up to over a month. In this training the officer learns about seven recognized drug categories, the impairment caused by those seven categories on the body and mind as well as the involuntary physical signs which manifest absent of odor (not all drugs give off a tell-tale smell) from those drugs uses. This training culminates to where the officers then apply that training by locating volunteers on the streets who exhibit signs of drug use. That officer puts the volunteer through a screening process which included a toxicology screening process to determine if the drug that person is exhibiting signs of use of is on board in that person’s body.
“Aside from an odor, there are many ways in which drug use manifest in a person which can be recognized by anyone so long as they are observant. Pupil sizes change contrary to lighting conditions, speech patterns change (rapid, slowed, slurred); the presence of involuntary body, facial, and eye tremors are just some examples. Driving under the influence of drugs is treated and processed by law enforcement and the legal system the same as driving under the influence of alcohol is. In fact there is a slogan used in some states “Drive High. Get a DUI.” In Wisconsin, we are the only state which treats a first offense operating under the influence of anything (drugs/alcohol) as a civil forfeiture -a fine with additional penalties. A second or subsequent offense can warrant jail/prison time if the judge deems that appropriate.
“Now this is not to say that prescription drugs cannot affect a person’s ability to drive (they certainly can). So long as you follow dosing practice as outlined by your physician and pharmacist as well as consult them concerning any additional medication to may be taking (as the two drugs may amplify/counteract the effects of the other(s) your risk of driving impaired is minimal.”
“If this is a topic of interest, I highly encourage you to inquire about the Merrill Police Department Citizen’s Academy as this, amongst other topics are covered in that program.
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