Judge says drug law is constitutional

LAS VEGAS - The woman accused of running down and killing six teen-agers as they picked up trash along Interstate 15 suffered a setback to her case Wednesday when a judge ruled that a state law that makes it a crime to drive under the influence of drugs is constitutional.

John Watkins, attorney for 21-year-old Jessica Williams, challenged the 1999 law in an evidentiary hearing last week. He said there is a difference between using drugs and being impaired by them.

Prosecutors say Williams, an exotic dancer from Littlefield, Ariz., was impaired by marijuana and the drug Ecstasy when she fell asleep and plowed her father's minivan into the teen work crew March 19.

The teens were part of a county program that lets misdemeanor offenders work off their sentences. The county was later fined by the state for safety violations and discontinued the roadside trash program.

Watkins claim his client was just tired.

Blood tests showed Williams had 5.5 nanograms per milliliter of blood in her system. The limit allowed by Nevada law is two nanograms.

District Judge Mark Gibbons said in his ruling that ''setting a level at which individuals are under the influence as to drugs is far more difficult than with alcohol.''

But, Gibbons noted that the Legislature heard from many experts on the issue. ''The Legislature is allowed to determine which of the experts they believe in setting their standards.''

Williams is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 29 on a variety of charges, including involuntary manslaughter.


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