Police Officers Banking on New Legislation to Nab Drivers Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Police Officers Banking on New Legislation to Nab Drivers Driving Under the Influence of MarijuanaCalifornia is one state in the US that is infamous for the liberal and unbridled use of ‘medical marijuana’-imbibing of cannabis that has been recommended by the physician. In fact, California was the first US state to legalize the stimulant’s medical use as a prophylactic drug in 1996. Now measures are afoot to sanction its recreational use as well and lawmakers’ proposal to get the bill (statute) passed in the state legislature has met with stiff opposition from advocates or supporters of ‘medical pot’.

In another surprising development that was much-awaited, Californian legislators on 5th April convened to discuss allowing the use of an advanced screening technique that’d enable police officers to nab drivers and motorists driving under the influence of marijuana. Law enforcement officers are heavily banking on the proposal that’ll allow them to run oral swab investigations on errant drivers who’ve come a cropper on sobriety field exams once the same becomes a statute. Republican Senator Bob Huff who drafted the bill said that a portable electronic device would be used to conduct a DUI test that’ll confirm presence of amphetamines, methadone, cocaine, marijuana or any other stimulant or opiate in the blood by taking an oral swab.

The senator lamented on the fact that the electorate in California were either ignorant or indifferent to the hazards posed to sober drivers by motorists who smoked cannabis, cocaine, and meth. California Narcotics Officers Association and California Police Chiefs Association are fully endorsing the proposal that is yet to become a law. If a report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association is to be believed, the total number of arrests and detentions for drugged driving has increased by 22% in the eight years from 2007 to 2014.

On the other hand, deaths of drivers in California resulting from drug abuse surged by over 40% in the period 2009-2013. A similar proposal approving the use of this novel DUI testing mechanism was checkmated last year by staunch promoters of medicated marijuana. The director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Dale Gieringer was strongly of the opinion that the effectiveness of the technique of oral swab investigation was yet to be proven substantially. The accurateness of the test was not thoroughly established in published reports of monitored, scientific trials.

The swab test using the handheld device could not ascertain a direct correlation between impaired driving and intake of marijuana. Highway patrol officers are eagerly expecting the legislators to ratify the bill which they feel will lead to increased DUI convictions once the swab testing device is used extensively. Mike Gatto, a Democratic legislator has also put his full weight behind the bill as he strongly feels that motorists driving vehicles under the impact of illegal drugs is a serious issue that is threatening the entire state. In 2015, the Legislature in California gave assent to a bill that’ll allow big business to commercially deal in marijuana as well as tax who trade in medical marijuana.

Image credit: Karen Roach

DUI in the Florida

DUI in the FloridaThe United States in general over the past 10-15 years has arguably made serendipitous efforts to maximize law enforcement, penalties, and litigation of individuals caught driving under the influence (DUI) (intoxication) of alcohol, as well as any other illicit, or non-prescribed medications that cause a direct threat to the safety of other drivers and one’s self.

The state of Florida in particular, in the past 3-5 years has been peddling state lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and influencing jurors with new jurisdiction-oriented laws and expectations to more heavily hold accountable individuals that drive under the influence of alcohol—a 0.08 (breathalyzer) blood alcohol intoxication level or more. The chemical intoxication of alcohol, as well as other recreational and illicit drugs is becoming more and more common while operating a motor vehicle in today’s modern world, and in turn must face more aggressive sanctions, penalties, and legal reprimand in order to promote more realistic possibilities of recidivism.

The state of Florida in particular, since 2008, approximately every 3 years has continued to demonstrate an ability to lower its drivers caught driving under the influence (DUI) by up to 10-15% each year alone. That is, as heavy penalties and a nearly permanent record (75 years for sealing or expungement eligibility) serve as deterrents to discourage individuals to drive while under the influence—DUI.

On the other hand, looking at the United States in general, it’s evident that the continued advancement of technology such as Ignition Interlock serves to be more and more effective at preventing intoxicated drivers from turning on or operating their vehicles, as well as capturing those that attempt to circumvent such legal-enforced technology and mandatory equipment in offenders vehicles—such as having picture-capturing technology in-built into devices now.

Statistics and Deaths.

The realities of DUI/DWI related vehicle accidents and deaths on not only an annual, but daily basis are quite concerning. In fact, according to the CDC, at least one person dies from a drunk-driving incident less than every hour–of any given 24-hour day.

While many states continue to struggle to find the most effective measures to promote recidivism of such a nature of offense, the state of Florida appears to have discovered and been most effective at such as it engages the problem from nearly every angle; including fines, administrative, repossession, public-record publishing, technology-demanding, lawyer based fees, bail, fines, jail-time, suspension of license, and more—often easily totaling $8,000-$10,000 or more.

While our country is arguably consistent of ‘one society’, or perhaps even “one culture”—an “American culture”–this is not to exclude the reality that plenty of people in the United States live many different ways, come from various different cultures, or simply have no desire to conform to our cultural norms, expectations, and laws—regardless of one’s country or state of origin.
It is probable and likely to infer that with state-wide cohesion of heavier DUI penalties, laws, and incarceration-related offenses that the total offense rates will decrease, while total enforcement rates and recidivism should continue to increase over time.