Articles Posted in DUI

NPR just published a relatively detailed story on how difficult it is to enforce DUI (driving under the influence) laws for those under the influence of marijuana. Like the rest of the nation, the state of Colorado has seen a sharp increase in marijuana DUI arrests. So far, State Patrol data illustrates that the number of citations rose from 316 in 2015 to 398 this year.

Colorado’s marijuana DUI law is modeled on the one for alcohol, which sets a number for blood-alcohol levels to determine when someone is too intoxicated to drive. For pot, that number is five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. That means it is illegal to drive if you have anything over that level. However, according to the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego, measuring a person’s THC is actually a poor indicator of intoxication. This is because unlike alcohol, THC gets stored in your fat cells, and is not water-soluble like alcohol. As a result, one can still test positive for THC even a week after consumption. This is something defense attorneys all too easily point out.

As far as policy implications, scientists at UCSD say that what cops really need is a simple roadside sobriety test.

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in California

Aside from normal DUIs, California is one of the many states that have a specific statute that addresses driving while under the influence of marijuana. See CA Vehicle Code 23152(e). One is considered “under the influence” of marijuana if, as a result of consumption, his or her mental and physical abilities are impaired so that he or she cannot drive like a sober person.

The tricky thing with driving while under the influence of marijuana is that there is no “per se” amount of THC in the bloodstream that can easily establish impairment unlike alcohol (.08%).  Chemical tests still cannot accurately reveal how much THC one has consumed, or how recently.  As a result, police will have to look to other factors, such as: your driving pattern, physical appearance, statements to police, and your performance on field sobriety tests.

If convicted of a marijuana DUI, one may face probation for three to five years, and six months in jail. You will also face extensive fines  and a suspension of your driver’s license. If someone is injured or killed as a result of the impaired driving, then one may be facing a felony charge punishable by state imprisonment and a suspension of a driver’s licenses for a year.    Continue reading

Last month, officials from the city of Riverside announced that they will not be repainting some of their unmarked police vehicles back to the standard black and white. The idea was discussed at department meetings after City Councilman Mike Soubirous, who happens to be a retired California Highway Patrol officer, questioned why city police have more unmarked cars than marked vehicles. Out of the Riverside PD’s 345-vehicle fleet, 124 cars are marked, 195 are unmarked, and others are specialized vehicles.

Police chief Sergio Diaz has reportedly claimed cost to be a primary determining factor.  It would cost $2.6 million to convert unmarked cars to marked ones, and he did not believe having more visible police cars would deter crime.  The City Council did not dispute the Riverside PD and will not be taking any action.

It is Legal for Police to Use Unmarked Vehicles to Give Out Traffic Citations

In lieu of the start of the school year for many college and school-aged students, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office in Northern California has received a $50,000 grant from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) for programs to combat underage drinking and alcohol sales to minors. The Roseville Police Department will participate in the grant, assisting the Sheriff’s office in providing training regarding alcohol-related crimes and their effects for school staff members, parents, students, and the community. The Sheriff’s Office plans to target ABC licensed stores that sell alcoholic beverages to minors and obviously intoxicated adult patrons. Minor-decoy and shoulder-tap operations also will be conducted countywide in an effort to reduce minors’ access to alcohol.

Counties throughout the state are cracking down on alcohol sales to minors.  Earlier this summer, an undercover operation across the state called Operation “Shoulder Tap” led to the arrest or citation of over 400 people in San Diego for purchasing alcohol for a minor.

Minors in Possession of Alcohol

With the start of the legislative session, California Senate members were given cards with a number for 24 Hour transportation.  As exposed by the Sac Bee, California Senate officials have hired two part-time employees to provide late night rides for members while they are out in Sacramento, following the high-profile drunk driving arrests involving lawmakers in recent years.  In particular, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) has failed three field sobriety tests, Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) recently plead guilty to a “wet reckless” charge, and Assemblyman Martin Garrick (R-Solana Beach) and Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) have both plead no contest to DUI charges.

It is no secret that California has a high rate of DUIs, and police will be cracking down.  It seems as if both lawmakers as well as citizens will likely encounter a field sobriety test at one point or another—even if they have not been drinking at all.

What is a Field Sobriety Test?

Field sobriety tests are a series of tests a police officer will request on the side of the road if the officer suspects you have been driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  They typically occur on the side of the road after you have been stopped, so law enforcement can make sure you are not too impaired (above the legal limit) to drive.

There are over 12 different tests, but according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are 3 main standard field sobriety tests that are most effective:

  1. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)- In this test, police will waive a pen in front of your face and telling you to follow it with your eyes.
  2. The divided attention (aka walk and turn)- Police will ask you to take steps down a straight line in a heel-to-toe manner.  This will test your concentration in doing two things at once.
  3. One leg stand: You will be asked to stand on one leg and count out loud.

Other tests include balancing on different legs, counting backwards, or reciting the ABC’s.

You May Refuse a Field Sobriety Test

Under California law, you may legally decline to take a field sobriety test; there are no penalties, although prosecutors will notably paint your refusal as a “consciousness of guilt.” Moreover, the police may have already made their judgement when they decided to stop and ask you to volunteer evidence against yourself.

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As another Saint Patrick’s Day kicks off in sunny San Diego, the SDPD will certainly be out in full force looking out for drunk drivers.  According from the most recent California DUI statistics from 2007, there were nearly 1,500 alcohol-involved fatalities and more than 200,000 DUI arrests.

In California, there are 2 ways to get a DUI (“driving under the influence”)/ DWI (“driving while intoxicated”). The first occurs when one’s blood alcohol content is:

  • 0.08% or higher (21 years old).