March 29, 2019

The Division of Criminal Justice respectfully requests the Committee’s JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT for S.B. No. 1054, An Act Concerning Driving While Intoxicated.  This bill is among the Division’s 2019 Legislative Recommendations to the General Assembly and is an important public safety measure that will assist in protecting motorists and other users of our roadways.        

Section 1 of this bill makes it unlawful for drivers to ingest marijuana, also known as cannabis, in any form while operating a motor vehicle.  Section 2 also prohibits passengers from smoking cannabis.  Marijuana is the drug most frequently found in drivers involved in vehicle crashes, including fatal ones. Marijuana impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time.[1] Studies confirm that there is a direct relationship between blood tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels and impaired driving ability.[2]  Moreover, prohibiting passengers from smoking marijuana in the confined area of a motor vehicle reduces the risk that the driver will suffer impairment.[3]

These two sections are the same as provisions included in H.B. No. 7372, An Act Concerning Driving While Under the Influence of an Intoxicating Drug. In our testimony in support of that legislation, the Division recommended that the Committee go a step further and adopt comprehensive legislation addressing a variety of issues dealing with driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. S.B. No. 1054 represents that comprehensive approach.

Section 3 of this bill provides civil immunity for hospital or medical personnel who withdraw blood from persons suspected of impairment who are involved in motor vehicle crashes involving injury or death.  Section 14-227c of the Connecticut General Statutes mandates that law enforcement officers obtain a blood or breath sample in these serious crashes.  Section 3 protects medical staff from being sued for obtaining a statutorily mandated test.  Other states have enacted similar legislation to better insulate the emergency room doctors and nurses who obtain blood samples.[4]

Section 4 also provides for civil immunity for medical personnel administering blood draws.   It mandates police officers to provide the results of a blood, breath or urine test with a .08 or greater blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in motor vehicle collisions causing serious bodily injury or death.  This allows the DMV to require those persons to install ignition interlock devices (IIDs) and/or suspend their driver’s license.  IIDs prohibit drivers from starting their vehicles if they have a BAC above .0225, thereby increasing highway safety. Additionally, this mirrors our current Section14-227b(c) statute, which authorizes DMV to receive reports for refusals to submit to a chemical test to determine BAC as well test results showing an elevated blood alcohol concentration (.08 or greater).  This  makes our operating under the influence laws stronger and more consistent.

Section 5 allows DMV to access juvenile delinquency adjudications for various motor vehicle offenses such as operating under the influence (C.G.S. § 14-227a) and possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia (C.G.S. §§ 21a-279a, 21a-267(d).  This enables the DMV to comport with the statutory requirements under Connecticut General Statutes 14-111e for teenaged license restrictions and suspensions. With regard to “raise the age” considerations, the Division would note that motor vehicle offenses were generally excluded from “raise the age” provisions; the cases of young people who commit traffic offenses are still primarily heard in the regular (adult) court. Section 5 is consistent with this distinction.

Section 6 simply clarifies the ten-year “lookback” period for granting persons charged with an operating under the influence offense the alcohol education program (AEP) under General Statutes § 54-56g. It allows this diversionary program provided the operating under the influence violation did not occur within ten years following the date the person was last granted entry into such a program.

Sections 7 and 8 prohibit commercial driver’s license holders from accessing diversionary programs for operating under the influence arrests as well as other offenses. This change primarily puts the state in compliance with federal “anti-masking” regulations[5] and addresses the potential loss of substantial federal highway funding should the state be deemed not in compliance with the federal requirements.

In conclusion, the Division respectfully recommends the Committee’s JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT for S.B. No. 1054. We thank the Committee for affording this opportunity to provide input on this matter and would be happy to provide any additional information the Committee might require or to answer any questions that you might have.

[1] National Institute on Drug Abuse –“Does Marijuana Use Affect Driving?”  https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/does-marijuana-use-affect-

[2] Lenné MG, Dietze PM, Triggs TJ, Walmsley S, Murphy B, Redman JR. The effects of cannabis and alcohol on simulated arterial driving: Influences of driving experience and task demand. Accid Anal Prev. 2010;42(3):859-866. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2009.04.021. Hartman RL, Huestis MA. Cannabis effects on driving skills. Clin Chem. 2013;59(3):478-492.  doi:10.1373/clinchem.2012.194381. Hartman RL, Brown TL, Milavetz G, et al. Cannabis effects on driving lateral control with and without alcohol. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;154:25-37. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.06.015.

[3] National Institute on Drug Abuse –“Does Marijuana Use Affect Driving?”  (“nonsmoking people in a confined space with people smoking high-THC marijuana reported mild subjective effects of the drug- a “contact high”-and displayed mild impairments on performance in motor tasks”).  https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/does-marijuana-use-affect-

[4] Some states that have civil immunity statutes for blood draws include: New Jersey (N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-10); Pennsylvania (PAC S.A.  § 3755); Michigan (M.C.L. § 257.625d); Indiana (I.C. 9-30-6-6), and Ohio (R.C. 4511.19)

[5] Under 49 C.F.R. § 384.226, “[t] he State must not mask, defer imposition of judgment, or allow an individual to enter into a diversion program that would prevent a CLP or CDL holder's conviction for any violation, in any type of motor vehicle, . . . from appearing on the CDLIS driver record  . . .”  .