Curtis Harlan was only 22 years old on August 5, 2012 when he lost his life to a drugged driver. He was working at a Kansas highway construction site, a dangerous occupation if inattentive or impaired drivers whiz by.
Police officers are trained to recognize drunk drivers, but few are equipped to identify drivers impaired by drugs like the methamphetamine that was found next to the driver that killed Curtis. The driver refused a voluntary blood test, but did submit to a forced blood draw. His test confirmed that he was on drugs. He was never charged with vehicular homicide or DUI.
How can the Harlan family be victimized twice, once by a drugged driver and then by a flawed legal system in Kansas? The Harlan family was told there was no evidence found of drug impairment. Why not? And if not, how was a forced blood draw justified?
Kansas does not require drug testing of drivers in crashes involving death or serious bodily injury. Officers must establish “probable cause” to have blood tests entered into evidence.
It is not unlawful in Kansas to drive with illegal, mind-altering drugs in your body. There is no drug per se law in Kansas. Courts must instead prove that drugs were present in the driver and that those drugs rendered the driver incapable of driving safely. This is an extraordinarily high standard that is very difficult to achieve, especially if the officers at the scene were not Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), able to perform behavioral assessment tests.
It’s too late for the Harlan family, but Curtis’s tragedy should convince Kansas to support DRE training, mandatory drug testing of drivers in fatal crashes, and drug per se laws.