Driving under the influence of drugs ("drugged driving" or "DUI drugs") is becoming increasingly prevalent in DUI arrests.
Clearly, the use of drugs — illegal and prescription — has become more common among drivers, but arrests in the past have not reflected this increase. The problem law enforcement has had in making arrests — at least without the availability of a DRE ("Drug Recognition Expert" or "Drug Recognition Evaluator") officer — was the lack of immediate chemical testing in the field. See my post How Accurate is Detection and Evidence of Drugged Driving?. Absent expertise in recognition of drug usage symptoms, cops lacked the necessary "reasonable suspicion" or probable cause to arrest so that a blood sample could be taken later at the police station or at a medical facility.
As the following article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times reflects, this is now in the process of change — and I expect this will quickly spread from the Los Angeles Police Department (originators of DRE training) to other law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The process involves a cheek swab, with results being tested within 8 minutes by a new system used in the field and made by Draeger (the German manufacturer of breath-alcohol testing devices).
Portable Drug Test a New Addition at New Year's DUI Checkpoints
Los Angeles, CA. Dec. 27 — The upcoming New Year’s crackdown on drunken driving will include a new test for many people who are pulled over — an oral swab that checks for marijuana, cocaine and other drugs.
The voluntary swabbing has been used just 50 times this year. But Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer is pushing to use it at more checkpoints and jails as officials try to limit the number of drivers impaired by substances other than alcohol.
“Traditionally, our office has focused on drunken driving cases,” Feuer said at a news conference Friday. “We’re expanding drug collection and aggressively enforcing all impaired-driving laws.”
Individuals arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs must submit to a blood test. But prosecutors said the eight-minute, portable oral fluids test could eventually become a more effective use of resources in drugged-driving cases.
The test screens for cocaine, benzodiazepine (Xanax), methamphetamine, amphetamines, narcotic analgesics, methadone and THC representative of marijuana usage within the past few hours. City prosecutors have yet to use results from the test as evidence in a case.
The city attorney's office filed 598 DUI cases in the last year that involved drugs, compared with 577 drunken driving cases during last year’s winter holiday period alone.
This year, about 1,520 people across Los Angeles County were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the two weeks leading up to Christmas, local law enforcement agencies announced earlier this week…
For information on Draeger's DrugTest 5000 System, the SSK 5000 swab collection unit or their DrugCheck test kit, see the Draeger website.
(Thanks to Joe.)