Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fullerton Police Use New Oral Swabs to Test Drivers for Drugs

The Fullerton Police Department has been participating in a pilot program to test some new anti-DUI technology. Since 2013, the agency has experimented with oral swabs that supposedly detect the presence of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine, opiates and benzodiazepine (Xanax) in a suspect's saliva.

The tests may indicate the presence or absence of specific drugs in the suspect's saliva, but they do not reliably measure the quantity or concentration of those drugs. Since they cannot accurately quantify the drugs that they detect, they are not very helpful in determining the suspect's actual degree of impairment. Clinical tests have also delivered very mixed results regarding the reliability of the new tests. The vice president of one company that manufactures the machines claims that his product is 99% accurate. The Sacramento PD, however, has had another experience. In one study, the department tested 34 drivers. Of those 34, 6 tested falsely positive and one tested falsely negative for drugs.

For now, the new oral swabs are only used as an investigative tool to help the police establish "probable cause" to make an arrest. Once the police have a good reason to believe that their suspect is driving a car while impaired, the suspect is arrested and transported to jail, where more reliable blood tests can be administered.

In California, there is currently no legal limit to clearly define when a driver is "impaired" by THC, amphetamine or other drugs. In order to sustain a conviction for driving under the influence of drugs, prosecutors must prove that the driver was so impaired by some substance -- or by some combination of substances -- that he could not operate his vehicle with the skill and care of an ordinary, sober driver (whatever that means). Typically, police will draw blood from subjects who they've arrested on suspicion of drugged driving. They will prepare reports to detail their observations of the subject.  Those reports will describe the subject's driving and performance on field sobriety tests. Based on the results of blood tests, combined with the totality of the officer's personal observations, prosecutors will attempt to prove that the subject was too impaired to safely drive a car.

The new oral swabs are one more piece of the puzzle that prosecutors will now use to combat drugged driving.  Driving under the influence of drugs is one of the hottest, most talked-about issues in local policing today.  Somebody recently decided that "Satanic death cults" are passe. "Driving under the influence of drugs" is the new danger lurking in suburbia. The Orange County District Attorney has deputies specifically assigned to prosecute these kinds of cases full-time. They receive grants from MADD to fund their efforts. The grants create a financial incentive for law enforcement agencies to devote disproportionate resources to combat a problem that may or may not actually exist (and to convict people who may or may not actually be dangerous).

If you or a loved one is accused of DUI or driving under the influence of drugs in Orange County, call us for a free consultation. (714) 449-3335. Ask for John. Thanks for reading.

Fullerton DUI Lawyer