New Hampshire has criminalized driving under the influence of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and any other chemical substances starting Jan. 1. The drugs were not previously covered under state law. New Hampshire lawmakers expanded their DUI laws in 2012, with Gov. Lynch signing the law in June.
State Police Sgt. Matthew Shapiro said that before, people could be grossly impaired by medications but could not be charged with driving under the influence. He testified in favor of the DUI bill in April 2012. He said there has been an increase in the use of prescription drugs and other new drugs, such as bath salts.
Defense attorneys complain that the new DUI laws are too far-reaching. They take issue with the fact that police officers may not be able to adequately determine whether someone is or isn’t under the influence of a certain drug.
On House Bill 1699-FN, the wordage has added the line: “prescription drug, over-the-counter drug, or any other chemical substance, natural or synthetic, which impairs a person’s ability to drive.” Before, it vaguely read, “under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any controlled drug.”
Sgt. Shapiro said, “The cases that we’re dealing with are people who are clearly impaired, they’re under the influence, they have diminished mental capacity and physical capacity as a result of taking drugs that are impairing them.”