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The Des Moines Register, Thursday, April 9, 1998, Page 4M

Bill targets driving while using drugs

  • The House measure would make it easier to convict users of meth and other substances.


    Prosecution of drug users who drive on Iowa roads would become easier under "drugged driving" legislation approved Wednesday by the House.
    The bill, sent to Gov. Terry Branstad for his signature also contains other provisions aimed at combatting use of methamphetamine and other illicit drugs.
    Rep. Jeffrey Lamberti, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said it is very difficult under the state's current drunken-driving law to convict drivers impaired by illegat drugs.
    The law sets no legal threshold for drugs other than alcohol, so prosecutors face the problem of proving impairment without an objective standard on which to rely.
    The legislation would make detection in a driver's body of any level of drug such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine grounds for obtaining a conviction.   Urine or blood tests would be used to detect the drugs, based on national standards.
    "It's a big change in the law," said Lamberti, R-Ankeny.   Only a handful of states have such an expanded drunken-driving law in force.
    Other parts of the bill, approved on a 92-1 vote, would:

  • Increase penalties for repeat violations of drug-possession laws.  A third offense could be punished by a five-year prison term.
  • Enforce mandatory minimum sentences for meth dealers.  No suspended or deferred seiflences would be allowed.  But minumun sentences for those who plead guilty or cooperate with authorities could be reduced.
  • Deny appeal bonds for convicted dealers, so they would have to remain behind bars while appealing their sentence.
  • Allow judges to withhold certain state and federal benefits, such as college student aid, to convicted drug offenders.

    The anti-drug legislation already approved by the Senate, was spurred by lawmakers' concern about Iowa's mushrooming meth problem.  The highly addictive drug has become widely available.
    A separate bill moving through the Legislature would spend more than $600,000 on more law-enforcement and drug prevention efforts.

Jonathan Roos can be reached at
(515) 284-8443 or

The Des Moines Register
Thursday, April 9, 1998, Page 4M

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