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WV House committee moves Tomblin’s drugged driving bill

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The fifth version of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's drugged driving proposal passed the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee March 26.

House Bill 2513 takes aim at drivers who are impaired by controlled substances, and Tomblin announced this initiative during his Feb. 13 State of the State Address.

The proposal would allow the automatic revocation of a driver's license if he or she refuses a blood test after an arrest.

The bill has created a lot of discussion within the House of Delegates, and it still has one more House committee to go through before it is presented to the full House for a vote.

The bill is based on West Virginia's implied consent law, which requires all drivers to submit to preliminary breath tests when they are arrested, but those breath tests do not detect controlled substances.

The bill includes definitions of the controlled substances that would be illegal for drivers to get behind the wheel after using, but the bill does not set a threshold for drug levels, such as the .08 blood alcohol content that sets the limit for alcohol-impaired driving within the state.

The bill asks the West Virginia State Police Forensic Lab to determine what those levels would be for the various drugs contained in the bill along with telling the Legislature what level of the drug could reasonably be detected for future legislation and to study the effects of drug combinations.

The bill also would require all members of law enforcement to have no less than six hours of training to detect driving while under the influence of a controlled substance before Dec. 31, 2014 if the bill passes. Any officers who don't have that training would not be able to request the secondary blood test under the legislation. The attorney for the committee who explained the bill to lawmakers said that part of the bill was intended to make sure all law enforcement officers have that extra training.

The bill would include a provision to clarify that a refusal to submit to a drug test would not be admissible in a criminal trial, but it would result in the automatic revocation of the driver's license.