Somerset chief: More resources needed to nab high drivers

SE Mass

SOMERSET, Mass. (WPRI) — While Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker continues to push for new laws cracking down on driving while high, one local police department said it’s seeing an uptick in the crime.

Somerset Police Chief George McNeil said officers have seen an increase in OUIs involving marijuana since the drug became legalized recreationally statewide.

“Many of our OUIs now involve not just alcohol, but drugs and marijuana,” McNeil said. “I’ve definitely seen an uptick in it, there’s no doubt about it.”

McNeil said only one officer in his department is trained to detect whether a driver is high or not, adding the department could use additional help.

“We could always use the help,” McNeil said. “Many times in the past when we have tried to arrest someone for driving under the influence of marijuana, their cases are dismissed because we are just going on the officer’s observations.”

Baker has proposed legislation to combat high driving. Parts of his proposal would allow officers to suspend licenses for refusing to submit a chemical test. It would also outlaw loose marijuana in cars – similar to the outlaw of open alcohol containers – and make search warrants more accessible electronically.

In a Target 12 investigation on high driving earlier this year, Attorney Bob Humphrey, who specializes in defending DUIs said these cases will likely be tied up in courts for years.

“It will be difficult for the prosecution to prove if they smoked marijuana immediately before they stopped or did they smoke it 29 days ago,” Humphrey explained.

According to Massachusetts crash statistics from 2013-2017, marijuana was the most prevalent drug found in drivers involved in fatal crashes.

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