A family who lost three members due to an automobile accident was present on March 1, 2018 to see legislation filed in both the House of Delegates and Senate to help police officers get drug testing completed with less certification.
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Katherine Badders and Scott Simpkins were on hand to testify in support of the bill. Badders’ husband and daughter, Ray and Susannah, were killed in a car accident March 21, 2015 near Annapolis. Jason Simpkins, Scott Simpkins’ son and Susannah Badders’ boyfriend, was also killed. The trio died because their vehicle, which was stopped, was struck by a vehicle with Travis Ala behind the wheel. Ala was found guilty for failure to control speed in order to avoid a collision. However, there was no way to determine if he was under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident.
This legislation will help police officers get drug testing on suspected impaired actors involved in an accident without a drawn-out process of paperwork and certification. For Katherine Badders and Scott Simpkins, the hopes is that families will get answers in cases like theirs.
Del. April Rose, R-District 5, is the lead sponsor of the bill. Rose’s position on the bill is that the increasing opioid crisis in Maryland is such that legislation should reflect an effort to provide families the opportunity to see more evidence gathered and perhaps get more definitive answers on the cause of an accident.
Currently in the state of Maryland, a drug recognition expert, or DRE, must be present on scene to request a blood test for drug impairment. If the officers on scene are not DREs, another officer must be called in. With the new legislation, the blood test will become comparable to breath tests for alcohol impairment, and any officer can request one if they have probable cause to suspect the individual is impaired by narcotics.
The legislation will also make the penalty the same for refusing the blood test as it is to refuse a breath test, an automatic license suspension.
If the law is passed, it would take effect October 1, 2018. Currently, the state only has 156 DREs, 38 instructors and one student in the DRE program, despite having 37 active agencies within state limits. This legislation would take some of the onus of determining suspected drug impairement off of these officials.
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