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If DUI for drinking is tough, DUI for drugs is worse

Every 10 years or so, safety experts conduct national surveys of drivers to estimate the rate of drunk or drugged driving in the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did the latest National Roadside Survey over the course of 2013-2014.

The good news according to the research is that drunk driving appears to be on a steady trend of decline. Compared to the last NRS in 2007, the number of drivers with alcohol in their systems at the time of their stops in 2014 fell by a third. Rates are down about 80 percent from when the survey was first conducted in 1973.

The bad news is that the number of drivers on impairing drugs increased from just over 16 percent in 2007 to 20 percent last year. Instances in which marijuana was found to be in drivers' systems rose by almost 50 percent.

Drivers in Minnesota who are facing driving under the influence charges should be aware that consequences of a conviction can be dire. And as bad as they may be if you are found guilty of operating any type of vehicle while drunk, the penalties can be more significant if the substance in your system is a drug.

It makes no difference whether the chemical is a prescription product, marijuana or a hallucinogen. If mere traces of metabolized drug are found in a suspect's system, prosecutors will try to use that as evidence.

But evidence can often be challenged before a case ever makes it to court. If the lab work was done improperly, it could render the evidence unusable. Some Drug Evaluation and Classification standards amount to little more than an arresting officer's opinion of your condition based on his or her observations. Subjective determinations deserve to be questioned.

Zealous police efforts to curb drunk driving aren't likely to be scaled back anytime soon. And with the data suggesting that drugged driving is on the rise it seems safe to say this could become a target for even greater police attention.

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