Advocates seeking closure of impaired driving 'loophole' ahead of possible marijuana legalization
With the possibility of recreational marijuana becoming legal in New York, a family and advocates are pushing to change what's being called a loophole in state law.
If a driver is pulled over and suspected of driving while impaired by drugs, the arresting officer currently has to identify the drug and that drug has to appear on a state list. If that doesn't happen, the driver could be off the hook.
"If God forbid I'm behind the wheel and I kill someone and I'm intoxicated, do you really think it matters to the people who are burying their loved one what the intoxicant was?" asks Marge Lee, executive director of DEDICATEDD. "It only matters that I should never have been behind the wheel intoxicated."
Lee says legislation is needed with a legal definition of intoxication.
"It doesn't matter what I'm impaired by. It only matters that I am impaired. That's the bottom line," says Lee.
Lee, a victim's rights advocate for more than 30 years, says 45 other states have laws on their books that use a much broader definition of drugged driving.
Also among those making the push is the family of 20-year-old Elisheva Kaplan and her 22-year-old fiancé Yisroel Levin, who were killed in a five-car pileup on the Nassau Expressway in Lawrence nearly three years ago.
Prosecutors say one of the two drivers who were arrested, charged and sentenced in connection with the crash was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana at the time.
The Kaplans are now telling state lawmakers in Albany to keep in mind the dangers of driving high while negotiations continue to legalize recreational marijuana.
"If you make so many loopholes that the law really can't be enforced then it's just ... it's just a sham," says Leah Kaplan.