When a driver is pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, the police officer will usually ask the driver to blow into a handheld device called a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) device. This test will give the officer a reading purporting to show the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) in the field. However, the police do not have a similar device to test whether a driver has drugs in their system unless they arrest the driver, and take a blood or urine test after arrest. One California lawmaker's attempts to authorize just such a field drug test failed to make it out of the Assembly committee.
Republican Assemblyman, Tom Lackey of Palmdale, introduced Assembly Bill 1356, to allow police and law enforcement to use a roadside chemical test for detecting drugs. Similar to a Breathalyzer, the tests are intended to show whether a driver is under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamines.
The proposed law would have made changes to state law to allow police to use oral fluid devices to test drivers for drug usage. Devices such as the Alere DDS2 purport to detect drugs in a driver's system through testing fluids in the mouth. On April 20th, Lackey even demonstrated use of such a system, along with a representative of the California Cannabis Industry Association.
The bill was voted on by the Assembly's Public Safety Committee, and failed 2-1, with four Democratic abstaining from the vote. Law enforcement was in support of the bill, but the Drug Policy Alliance and defense attorneys opposed the measure.
Lackey said the bill was put together with “a broad coalition of roadway safety organizations and law enforcement.” In a press release, Lackey pointed the finger at Democratic legislators for failing to pass the bill. As a 28-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol, Lackey said, “officers have numerous tools to deal with drunk drivers but lack the equivalent for drugs. Better tools for law enforcement have allowed us to cut down on drunk driving. We need to pursue the same strategy for drugged driving which is unfortunately rapidly increasing.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), marijuana is the most common drug found in drivers. With the legalization of marijuana likely to be considered by California voters in the near future, law enforcement is seeking a way to more quickly test driver's for the presence of drugs in the body. A spokesperson for Alere, the device manufacturer, the device would be testing for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and benzodiazepine. Some states are already testing the field drug testing devices in pilot programs.
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the East Bay. Lynn Gorelick has over 30 years of DUI experience, and understands the penalties involved. If you get pulled over for a DUI anywhere in the East Bay, don't let your arrest end in a conviction. You have a chance to keep the criminal conviction off your record, and keep your driving privileges. You do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested. Contact a local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands local DUI laws, and will make sure you get the justice you deserve.