Category Archives: Drugged Driving

COVID-19 AND DUIs

Since government stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns, there has been a significant drop in the number of cars on the road. If you think this has led to a significant decline in the number of DUIs, you’re right. Data from local and state agencies show showed DUI arrests have decreased significantly since the pandemic arrived. There has been a 42% decrease in DUI rates in California post-pandemic. However, while DUIs have decreased, substance abuse has increased.

The pandemic has caused many Americans to:

-Be isolated from their friends and family

-Fear and worry about their health and the health of their loved ones

-Lose their job or fear losing their job

-Lose the support services they rely on

This has lead to changes in sleep and/or eating patterns, difficulty concentrating and functioning, and worsening of chronic health problems which leads to depression and anxiety and increased substance abuse. Those who already struggle with alcoholism and addiction are at even higher risks of substance abuse during these difficult times.

“I would definitely say the depression, the anxiety, the uncertainty, the loneliness, the isolation, all of those factors aren’t good for mental health,” Sheila Vakharia, deputy director of research and academic engagement at Drug Policy Alliance, told Yahoo Finance. “What we do when we’re feeling that way is that sometimes we shut down, but sometimes we reach out in different ways to cope. Reaching out to your drug of choice, whatever that might be, is one strategy.”

“A lot of this depression and anxiety is also related to the fact that people have lost their jobs,” Vakharia said. “We’ve got unprecedented rates of unemployment, employment instability, the loss of benefits, or other things that your business might do to employees to stay open. I think people do things to cope with the circumstances that they’re in. People are struggling with all these other forms of instability and confusion and lack of information from the top down about what’s going on, when we’re going to get out of this, what they can expect, and how to stay safe.”

In April of this year, one-third of Americans couldn’t make their rent payments. While there’s no comprehensive date, many states report sharp upticks in homeschooling. The unemployment rate stood at 6.7 percent in December, well above pre-pandemic levels of 3.5 percent.

“Are you supposed to be happy when you lose your job?” Ms. Vakharia goes on to say. “Or when your kids are at home and you can’t make ends meet?”

According to the CDC, there were over 81,000 deaths from substance abuse in America in the 12 months ending in May 2020. That the highest number of deaths from substance abuse ever recorded in a 12-month period. According to the market research by Nielsen, online sales of alcohol rose to 234 percent in March of this year compared to March of last year. In-store purchases of tequila, gin, and pre-mixed cocktails increased to 75 percent. Wine sales soared to 66 percent. Beer sales rose to 42 percent.

If you are struggling with a mental health condition such as depression and anxiety, please do not resort drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. This will only create more problems for yourself and your loved ones. Instead, please consider these healthy tips on how to cope:

-Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Constantly hearing about the pandemic can be stressful.

-Go for a run or a hike.

-Take deep breaths, stretch, or do yoga.

-Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.

-Exercise regularly.

-Get plenty of sleep.

-Avoid alcohol and drug use.

-Make time to unwind. Try to do activities you enjoy.

-Take time to journal.

-Make a list of things that you are grateful for.

-Make a list of songs that put you in a positive mood and listen to them when you are down.

-Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

-Do something kind for someone, such as posting a kind comment on someone’s social media page.

-Connect with your community or faith-based organizations via online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

-Another way to cope with depression is to focus on the 5 P’s: 1) People- connect with the right people whom you trust, who make you happy, and who can provide support; 2) Physical Needs- be sure to get enough sleep, eat right and exercise; often we neglect our physical needs when we are depressed and this only increases the depression; 3) Purpose- recognize that we are all put on this planet for a purpose. Find an activity that makes you connect with your life purpose and gives your life an sense of meaning such as joining a community service organization; 4) Positive outlook- recognize that pain is gain and any challenge is just an opportunity for personal growth; and 5) Power- recognize that you have the power to overcome any challenge that comes your way.

-Lastly, know you are not alone and there is help if you need it. Here are a few resources if you are considering harming yourself:

– National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

– Crisis Text Line: Text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message

– NAMI HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), Monday through Friday, 10 am to 6 pm, ET

This Coronavirus pandemic shall pass and you have the power to overcome anything that comes your way. Stay strong.

If you end up abusing alcohol or drugs and are caught committing a DUI, please contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Avoiding Jail Time in a California DUI Case

 

Whether a driver faces DUI charges in California or any other state, there is one potential consequence that is likely to be of concern to the person: incarceration. There is good reason for such concern: even a few days spent in jail can lead to a reduction in income or job loss. Not only this, but any time that a parent spends away from their child or that a spouse spends away from their partner can cause emotional hardship. All of this is on top of the harm to one’s reputation that might result from serving time for a DUI conviction.

First-Time DUIs Do Not Usually Lead to  Jail Time

A person is unlikely to face jail time for their first DUI conviction. While the maximum sentence   for a first-time DUI includes six months in jail, this outcome is not likely in many cases. Most first-time DUI offers include a period of  three years of informal probation, approximately $2,000 in fines and fees, a 3-month DUI program, the MADD VIP program, and restitution if there was a collision.

Drivers convicted of their first DUI and whose cases involving aggravating factors are more likely to face jail time. Such factors can include:

· Causing injuries

· Excessive speeding

· Reckless driving

· Driving on a suspended license

· Having a blood- or breath-alcohol concentration that is significantly higher than the legal limit.

Thus, drivers convicted of their first DUI may need not worry about having to serve jail time. Instead, they will likely placed on a period of informal probation. If there are aggravating factors involved, however, then the driver faces a greater risk of incarceration

Subsequent DUIs

Once a person is convicted of a subsequent DUI in California within a 10 year period, courts are required to sentence the person to some period of incarceration. Under these circumstances, it becomes even more important to challenge the prosecution’s case. There are several areas where the prosecutor’s case may be vulnerable:

· Lack of evidence of essential elements: The prosecution must be able to prove that the defendant was driving a vehicle. If there are no witnesses who saw the person driving and there is little circumstantial evidence suggesting the person drove a vehicle, the prosecutor may not be able to win their case. 

· Suppressed breath or blood test results: If law enforcement officers did not follow the proper steps in collecting, preserving, and testing a person’s breath or blood sample, then a court may rule that any results obtained from testing of those samples are to be suppressed (kept out of court). Test results may also be suppressed if they were obtained in violation of the person’s constitutional rights. Without being able to present test results showing the driver’s blood or breath alcohol concentration, the prosecutor may lack the evidence they need to show the person was impaired at the time they were driving a vehicle.

· Inaccurate or inconclusive breath or blood test results: There are a number of reasons why a breath testing machine may not give an accurate result, especially if the driver has an underlying medical condition or follows a ketogenic diet. Similarly, a blood sample may not be suitable for testing if the individual who collected the sample did not follow the proper protocol in collecting, storing, or analyzing the sample. 

· No evidence of prior convictions: If the prosecutor is alleging that a person charged with DUI has one or more prior convictions, then the prosecution must be prepared to present evidence of those prior convictions. An erroneous entry on a person’s driving history or criminal record that cannot be substantiated may mean the difference between a second DUI conviction and mandatory jail time and a first DUI conviction and informal probation.

Drivers Charged With A DUI Should Seek Legal Assistance

While a first-time DUI will most likely not lead to incarceration, there are no guarantees. Even a person’s first DUI conviction, when accompanied by a high BAC, a collision involving injury, and/or other aggravating factors, may result in a jail sentence. Motorists with subsequent convictions within a 10 year period will face incarceration. Therefore, any individual who is facing a California DUI charge and who is concerned about incarceration should speak with an experienced California DUI defense lawyer about their case as soon as possible.

Prescription Drug DUI

In late August, a Montebello police lieutenant was taken into custody in San Bernardino County on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. He had previously been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of prescription drugs, although charges were never filed. The arrest serves as a reminder that someone can be arrested for a California DUI with drugs, both illegal and legal.

On August 21st, Montebello Police Lt. Christopher Cervantes, 47, was arrested after police believe he rear-ended another car in the city of Montclair.

Neither Cervantes nor the other driver were injured in the collision, Cervantes was booked on suspicion of DUI at the San Bernardino County Jail, and he was subsequently placed on paid administrative leave.

In 2015, Cervantes was arrested following a collision with a tree in Diamond Bar. Although he tested positive for a combination of pain-relieving prescription drugs acetaminophen, butalbital, codeine, and morphine, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges citing a lack of evidence.

In 2011, Cervantes was detained after resisting arrest at a San Diego hotel party where he falsely claimed to police that he was a federal agent. Charges were never filed for this arrest either.

“I’m aware of everything in his personnel file and as I was the one who promoted him, I was confident that he was a great candidate for promotion to lieutenant,” said Montebello Police Chief Brad Keller. Cervantes was promoted by Keller after

 Cervantes’s 2015 arrest.

As a high-ranking police officer, Cervantes should have been acutely aware that a person can still be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, including prescription drugs. Many people, on the other hand, often believe that a DUI can only occur if a driver has alcohol in their system. Some people believe that a DUI can occur with only alcohol or illegal drugs, and because a drug might be legal, whether prescription or over-the-counter, a driver cannot get a DUI if they have legal drugs in their system.

California Vehicle Code section 23152 (f) states, “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.”

“Any drug” includes those that are illegal as well as legal, both prescription and over the counter.

The important consideration here is the phrase “under the influence.” Although, prescription drugs and other legal drugs fall within the definition of “any drug,” a person must also have his or her mental or physical abilities impaired to such a degree that he or she is unable to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person to be “under the influence.”

What kinds of medications can cause you to be under the influence? Tranquilizers, narcotic pain pills, sleep aids, antidepressants, cough medicines, antihistamines, and decongestants to name a few. And how might they cause you to be under the influence? Drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, and confusion, to name a few. Kind of sounds like being drunk, doesn’t it?

A few years back, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that almost half of people 70 years old and above take up to five medications per day. Additionally, a survey from the foundation found that 72% of people 55 and over, the demographic most likely to take medications for chronic conditions, had no idea that their driving performance could be affected by their prescription medications.

Remember, a DUI does not just mean driving under the influence of alcohol, or even illegal drugs, but all drugs including prescription and over-the-counter drugs. If it is capable of affecting a person’s driving ability, then it’s best to wait until after a driving excursion is over.

 

Marijuana Breath Detector

According to the California Highway Patrol, the number of arrests for driving under the influence of marijuana has increased since recreational marijuana in California became legal in 2018. Yet, determining when someone is under the influence of marijuana to a degree that makes them incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle remains as difficult as it always has been…or has it?

California Vehicle Code section 23152(f) makes it “unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.”

Quite clearly, marijuana is a drug even if it is recreational. Whether a transportation device qualifies as a “vehicle” for purposes of this law is a different subject for a different day. The bigger question, however, is whether someone is “under the influence” after having smoke marijuana.

To be “under the influence” as the result of consuming marijuana, a person must have his or her mental or physical abilities so impaired that he or she is unable to drive a vehicle with the same caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.

While this definition might sound nice, it is still difficult to determine how much marijuana an individual must consume before they are so “high” that they are unable to drive a vehicle with the same caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.

Unlike alcohol, there is little correlation between the amount of marijuana someone has consumed and how impaired a person is.

Alcohol is water soluble, which means that it enters and leaves the bloodstream fairly quickly. Additionally, a person’s blood alcohol content, which can be determined rather quickly and accurately, has scientifically been shown to correlate with how drunk (i.e. impaired) someone is. Every state, with the exception of Utah, has a blood alcohol content limit of 0.08 percent because, generally speaking, that is the point at which alcohol begins to affect a person’s motor skills, thus making them “under the influence” for purposes of a DUI with alcohol.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component to marijuana, on the other hand, is fat soluble. Therefore, unlike alcohol, it can stay in a person’s system for much longer than alcohol. In fact, regular users of marijuana can still have THC in their systems weeks after having consumed marijuana and certainly long after being high, which necessarily means that it cannot and should not be used to determine how high someone is, and whether they are “under the influence.” Yet, current blood tests only detect the amount of THC in a person’s system, but there is no way to determine how “high” someone is.

Oakland based Hound Labs is trying to change this by creating the first breathalyzer to measure “recent” marijuana and alcohol use on the breath.

“When you can you find THC in breath, and that can require some incredibly sensitive tools, but when you can find it, then you know that the person used very, very recently,” said Dr. Mike Lynn, emergency room physician, reserve deputy sheriff, and founder of Hound Labs.

Working in conjunction with UCSF, Hound Labs determined that THC can be found on a person’s breath.

“We found THC in all twenty test subjects, and what was really interesting, is that the THC peaked at about 15 minutes, and then it went out of the breath within 2 to 3 hours,” said Dr. Lynn.

According to Dr. Lynn and Hound Labs, if THC is found on the breath, it means that a person had smoked within the last few hours. They also determined that the first two to three hours following marijuana consumption is when a driver is at the greatest risk for being impaired.

Hound Labs were granted $30 million in funding to continue to develop and manufacture the marijuana breath test to be used by law enforcement by the end of the year.

While it may be a step in the right direction in finding the elusive answer to the question, “When is someone too high to drive?” issues remain. When Hound Lab’s device detects that someone consumed marijuana “recently,” how recent is it? Does “recent use” account for even negligible amounts of marijuana consumption? Will “recent use” change the way we draft our DUI of marijuana laws?

Bottom line is that, before we get too carried away, we need to make sure that whatever safeguard and/or preventative measures we put in place to stop high drivers do not infringe on the rights of people who consume marijuana safely and lawfully.

DUIs Are Not Just for Alcohol

Last month, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize marijuana and since just a few weeks ago, we reminded our readers about The Basics of a California DUI, this may be a good time to also remind our readers that a DUI is not just about alcohol.

We tend to think about drunk driving only in terms of alcohol, primarily because it is the more dominant of legal substances that leads to a DUI. However, marijuana is also becoming more widespread and legal in recreational applications.

While marijuana may still be used by many for its medical properties, there has definitely been an increase in recreational use here in California, thus making DUI of marijuana more prevalent than it has been in the past.

California Vehicle Code section 23152 (f) states, “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” “Any drug” includes those that are legal. The important factor here is “under the influence.” Although, prescription drugs and other legal drugs fall within this purview of “any drug,” a person must also have his or her mental or physical abilities impaired to such a degree that

he or she is unable to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person to be “under the influence.”

A recent survey by the AAA revealed that many Americans don’t believe that they will get caught when driving high on marijuana. An estimated 14.8 million Americans admitted to driving within one hour of using marijuana.

We have previously covered topics that have dealt with the insufficient methods of determining impairment, especially when it comes to the effects of THC and other drugs. This may add to the public’s belief that they may not get caught.

However, according to Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Dr. David Yang, “Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgement. Yet, many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving.”

While it is true that no research has proven an exact correlation between impairment and specific levels of THC, unlike how we can calculate a correlation between heightened BAC levels, law enforcement is taking measures to train their officers to better detect impaired drivers. It is only a matter of time before a more consistent method of determining marijuana-impairment will be developed. There are already scientists and researchers hard at work in attempting to create a breathalyzer-type test for determining THC levels and even impairment.

Even current alcohol-testing breathalyzers (used for both the roadside test and for the mandatory “chemical test”), which have been around for quite some time, are by no means perfect. Depending on the officers administering them, how they are administered, and how they’re maintained, breathalyzer results can be challenged by competent DUI attorneys.

While probable cause may seem harder to prove with marijuana, or other drugs, when compared to alcohol, it does not mean that you are not actually impaired. The AAA website summed it up nicely, “AAA recommends all motorists avoid driving while impaired by marijuana or any other drug (including alcohol) to avoid arrest and keep the roads safe. Just because a drug is legal does not mean it is safe to use while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired put themselves and others at risk.”