Arkansas Legislature passed a bill in March that required law enforcers to conduct testing for the presence of drugs and alcohol in drivers who were involved in fatal – or potentially fatal – vehicular accidents.
The bill, Senate Bill 217, was spearheaded by state Senator Denny Altes, a Republican representing Fort Smith. Now known as Act 423, the law requires that law enforcers subject a driver involved in an accident “in which death has occurred or is likely to occur” to a “chemical test of the blood, breath or urine”. The results of the test may be used for prosecution purposes and are to be conducted regardless of whether the surviving driver appears to be under the influence of intoxicating or illegal substances or not, according to the senator. A test will also need to be conducted regardless of whether the suspected erring driver is critically injured or not.
Sen. Altes proposed the bill after being informed by a local lawyer, Joey McCutchen, about the case of a client who was killed in a car crash; the driver of the other vehicle was reportedly under the influence of meth at the time of the accident. Meth can be difficult to detect without the benefit of chemical testing.
The police departments serving Fort Smith and Van Buren have made it a practice to conduct drug and alcohol tests when a fatal accident occurs. The tests occur both ways; it can either prove that the erring driver was indeed under the influence, or, if the surviving driver does not appear to be under the influence, that there were no “extenuating circumstances outside of normal driving that may have caused the accident”, according to Fort Smith Sgt. Kirk Redwine as quoted by Times Record Online.
Lt. Brent Grill of the Van Buren Police Department said that once a driver obtains his license, there is an “implied consent” to submit one’s self to drug and alcohol testing by law enforcement agencies. Refusal will lead to the suspension of the driver’s license.