Oregon law prohibits a person from driving a vehicle if they are under the influence of “alcohol, a controlled substance, or an inhalant,” or any combination of the three. However, House Bill 2115 would change that, expanding the definition of driving under the influence to include “any other drug.”
The word “drug” would have the meaning set forth under ORS 475.005(13). The definition includes any substance “intended to affect the structure or any function of the body,” and the only specific exclusion under this definition is food. Proponents of the bill argue that the intention is to cover misuse of prescription drugs as well as synthetic drugs. However, adopting such a broad definition has the potential to invite abuse.
Nicotine and caffeine are two common, popular, and legal drugs, and if either substance were to impair a person to a perceptible degree, this person could be arrested for a DUII under this new definition. I would also suspect antihistamines, ibuprofen, and other over the counter medicines or supplements are covered as well.
HB 2115 does address a serious issue, but it does not go about fixing the problem in a thoughtful way. Rather, legislators have taken the lazy approach and used language that puts all the power into the hands of police and prosecutors. Oregon will definitely see a rise in DUII arrests as a result of this new law, and if it passes, you may want to think twice about telling a police officer that is pulling you over that you had a little too much coffee this morning.