Police departments have been looking for a tool that allows them to test a driver for the influence of marijuana on the side of the road. California police officers now use the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test to check a driver's approximate blood alcohol level. Now some police departments will be testing a similar device to check for the presence of marijuana. However, these roadside testing devices are still prone to mistakes and false-positive readings.
Initial use of a new marijuana breathalyzer has been tested right here in Alameda County, according to an article in U.S. News & World Report. Mike Lynn is the CEO of Hound Labs, which has developed the field marijuana breath testing device. Lynn is also an ER doctor in Oakland and a reserve officer with the Alameda County Sheriff's Department. Lynn helped test the device on local drivers who voluntarily submitted to a breath test.
Of the individuals who said yes to the voluntary marijuana breath test, two people admitted to smoking marijuana within the 30 minutes prior to the test. According to Lynn, the tests confirmed that those drivers had much higher marijuana results than other drivers. Drivers who had smoked marijuana two or three hours earlier also had positive marijuana results on the portable device.
The drivers who tested positive for marijuana were not arrested but they also not allowed to drive away. Instead, they were given rides to their destinations. “We were not trying to arrest people,” said Lynn. “Basically, everyone agreed because they were curious. The objective was not to put people in jail but to educate them and use the device is they volunteered so we could get the data.”
According to Lynn, the Hound Labs device would prevent unfair arrests of people who had smoked or consumed marijuana days earlier. Blood, urine, and saliva tests can show positive levels of THC days after the effects of marijuana wear off. “The fundamental scientific point is THC only stays in breath a very, very short period of time,” said Lynn. “You can correlate actually the levels in their breath to driving impairment.”
While police departments continue to test these field marijuana testing devices, their accuracy has yet to be proven. Field PAS devices are notoriously unreliable. Their results cannot be used for evidentiary purposes in California DUI prosecutions. Instead, prosecutors have to rely on more accurate machines that test a driver's BAC at the police department or sheriff's station.
Field marijuana testing devices may be increasingly sought after in California as voters look to decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana. Prop 64 would make marijuana legal in the largest pot market in the country. If voters approve the proposition, recreational marijuana may be available to Californians as early as January 2018.
At Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people facing DUI charges in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands the law and will make sure you get the justice you deserve. If you are charged with drunk driving, distracted driving or other criminal charges, contact the local East Bay criminal defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.