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Santa Cruz marijuana DUI defense lawyerCalifornia law enforcement officers have faced a growing challenge over the past two years: how to keep the roadways safe from people driving under the influence of marijuana

Marijuana DUI Arrests Have Risen Since 2016

Two major events have led to an increase in marijuana use in California and a corresponding concern about driving under the influence of cannabis. First, Proposition 64, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, was passed in November 2016; this allowed individuals to grow and use marijuana for their own recreational purposes. Second, Proposition 64 also legalized the sale of marijuana to anyone age 21 or older, effective January 1, 2018.

Drugged driving arrests have risen significantly in California since the state legalized the use of recreational marijuana. The Orange County crime lab reported that requests to process blood samples related to marijuana DUI arrests rose 40% between November 2016 and June 2017. In addition, the California Highway Patrol reported that marijuana DUI arrests increased 31% from January to August 2018 and that injuries attributed to marijuana DUIs doubled.  

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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.”

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Police in Los Angeles have not provided a great deal of public information, but authorities claim that rap artist Too Short was arrested on driving under the influence and drug charges early Wednesday morning. The allegations apparently arose after some kind of stop--Reuters reports that the stop was a routine traffic stop, but, the New York Daily News claims more specifically that the officer made the stop to investigate the driver for DUI.

Police claim that during the investigatory stop the officer believed that the hip hop artist appeared to be under the influence. The officer says that he requested that Too Short perform field sobriety tests. However, authorities claim that the rap artist tried to flee on foot. A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police claims that Too Short tripped after about a half of a city block while running and was taken into custody on suspicion of DUI.

Authorities claim that while sitting in the police car the rapper discarded undisclosed drugs in the back seat of the squad. Too Short was processed on the DUI allegations--the artist blew a 0.09 percent alcohol level during the investigation, according to TMZ.

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A California lawmaker is proposing a form of zero tolerance rule to driving under the influence of medications under California law. The measure proposes to make any detectable amount of any drug listed in California's schedules of controlled substances would suffice to bring California drugged driving charges against a driver.

The Santa Ana, California state senator says that the proposal would make an exception for medications that are duly prescribed by a doctor and taken in accordance with the medically prescribed dosage. The exception reportedly would account for medical marijuana law in California.

Some commentators compare the drugged driving proposal to the legal limit to drive set for alcohol. California law presumes that a driver is impaired at an alcohol level of 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration. However, the measure proposes to give law enforcement and prosecutors the ability to bring DUI charges based upon any detectable amount Class I through IV drugs and medication for drivers who have no prescription.

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Law enforcement says that the driver of a motorcycle refused to stop Monday. The California Highway Patrol says that an officer sought to conduct a traffic stop on allegations of speeding and equipment violations along Highway 17 around 8:00 Monday morning. Later, the CHP says that a Santa Barbara man driving the bike crashed. He now faces charges of drugged driving, evading and several drug-related charges.

Authorities assert that the motorcycle rider sped off from the attempted traffic stop heading south on the Santa Cruz Highway, eventually taking the exit for Mount Herman Road. Shortly after leaving the highway, the CHP says the motorcyclist lost control of the bike and crashed. Officers approached and say the 45-year-old became combative. Law enforcement pulled out a Taser-like device and reportedly subdued the motorcyclist while taking him into custody.

The CHP says that they believe the biker was driving under the influence of drugs at the time of the police pursuit. Officers say that the motorcyclist had a large amount of marijuana and methamphetamine in his possession. It is unclear in the media what amounts of each substance officials claim were seized. It is also unclear where the drugs were allegedly found.

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