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July 16, 2013

Arrests spotlight rise in drug-tied DUI

A car with headlights turned off long after dark at about 11 p.m. Sunday backed out from a Bass Avenue 7-Eleven parking spot.

The driver swerved to the left, crossing the yellow line into the opposite direction travel lane, and the lights of a police cruiser flickered on.

For at least the second time this month, Gloucester police had arrested a driver who had taken serious drugs before climbing behind the wheel. This time the drug of choice was heroin, the driver later admitted to police.

Joseph R. Sclafani clamored out of his vehicle and failed a handful of sobriety tests. He insisted to police that he had not been drinking alcohol, and a Breathalyzer test proved the truth in his statement. Still, he swayed and lost his balance while standing on one leg and replaced “s” with “x” while reciting the alphabet for an officer, according to the police report.

Sclafani initially told police he had smoked marijuana “several hours earlier,” then said he also took prescribed benzodiazepines, benzos, two hours prior to the stop. When police pulled plastic baggies containing white powdery residue, three hypodermic needles, a tan powdery substance, mesh screens and a small piece of cotton from Sclafani’s vehicle, he added another drug to the list.

“He told me he had used heroin ‘earlier,’ but either would not or could not be more specific,” Officer Peter Cherry wrote in his report.

He charged 36-year-old Sclafani with drugged driving, heroin possession, a marked lane violation and driving at night without headlights.

A recently released 2007 National Roadside Survey found that driving after taking illegal drugs is just as widespread as driving after drinking. The survey examined random blood and bodily fluid samples from willing weekend nighttime drivers.

Of those drivers, 12.4 percent tested positive for any amount of alcohol in their system while 16.3 percent were positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs which could possibly cause impairment.

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