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New Year, new drug crime tests for drivers in California

When most California drivers think of driving under the influence, they often turn their thoughts to alcohol-related incidents. Now, though, a variety of municipalities throughout the nation are choosing additional measures to ensure that the drivers are not operating a vehicle under the influence of illegal drugs. As a consequence, drivers could face charges for a drug crime thanks to mobile intoxication test designed to identify marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs.

Prosecutors in California, especially in Los Angeles, are pushing for the expanded use of drug testing at DUI checkpoints. The new methods for testing for illegal drug intoxication take just eight minutes, and they are restricted to the use of oral fluids that are obtained from a cheek swab. In essence, these new drug tests are analogous to the breathalyzer test that is already used in drunk driving cases. Authorities say they believe the screens, which test for cocaine, Xanax, amphetamines, narcotics and marijuana, will be useful for keeping drunk drivers off the road and even assist with search and seizure.

So far, more than 1,500 people have been arrested for drunk or drugged driving in the two weeks before Christmas 2013. However, drivers are not yet out of the woods, as authorities say they will continue the increased enforcement efforts through the end of year. This is particularly relevant for those who will party on New Year's Day and New Year's Eve, which are traditionally known as major alcohol-consumption events.

California defendants who have been subject to arrest or search warrants because of allegedly drugged driving may benefit from the assistance of a qualified criminal defense attorney. It is still not clear whether these new tests are entirely reliable, and have only been used for a limited time. As a result, blood tests will be used to confirm the results of the eight-minute tests. Criminal defense attorneys can help defendants learn more about the implications of these tests, educating them to maximize the outcome of their legal proceedings.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Portable drug test a new addition at New Year's DUI checkpoints" Paresh Dave, Dec. 27, 2013

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