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Bill Would Permit Oral Swabs to Bolster Drugged Driving Cases

 Posted on April 15, 2016 in DUI Drugs

drugged driving, Santa Cruz DUI defense lawyerWith medical marijuana programs becoming increasingly common around the country and decriminalization efforts underway in many states, there has been much discussion about those who drive under the influence of drugs and how to handle such cases. While some states have proposed—and even implemented—quantifiable standards for traces of certain drugs in a driver’s system, others like California currently rely on a more subjective standard of impairment. Recently proposed legislation seeks to change that standard somewhat, but the measure has been met with a fair degree of skepticism.

Detecting the Presence of Illegal Drugs

Senate Bill 1462 was introduced by California Senator Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, and would allow law enforcement officers to conduct an oral swab on a person suspected of drugged driving. The test would be permitted based on probable cause after a driver has already failed field sobriety tests. The swabs are designed to detect the presence of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and prescription pain medications, but do not provide information about the amount or concentration of the substance. Senator Huff has acknowledged as much, saying that the swabs are not meant to replace blood testing, but that “oral swabs are the only way to quickly and accurately test for the presence of six of the most common drugs of abuse.”

Reliability Concerns

A measure that would have offered law enforcement similar testing authority was also introduced last year, but never even reached a vote. Opponents of the bill believe that simply detecting the presence of a drug cannot imply that a driver is actually impaired. They say that the proposal is “premature,” and that oral swabs’ “accuracy has not demonstrated in controlled, published scientific studies.”

Pilot Programs

Federally-monitored test programs have been conducted in various parts of the country already, including several California counties. Prosecutors in the test regions report that when the swabs are conducted, drugged driving cases are reaching plea agreements sooner than those that do not include such evidence. If the testing devices were to become more commonplace, though, familiarity on the part of defense attorneys will also increase, offering defendants a better chance of disputing such evidence.

When you have been charged with drugged driving, you need an attorney who will stop at nothing to protect your rights. Contact an experienced Santa Cruz DUI defense lawyer today to schedule your free initial consultation. John W. Thornton, Attorney at Law, is equipped to provide the representation you need during a difficult time. Call 831-426-5800 and put our team to work for you.



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