Following California’s legalization of the use of medical marijuana, law enforcers are concerned with the potential increase in drugged driving in Los Angeles. A new bill pending at the California Senate intends to prohibit driving while smoking medical pot.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) plans to equip DUI checkpoints with swab testing tools for checking drugged driving, a punishable DUI offense.

Mechanics of DUI Swab Test

According to the LAPD, police officers at checkpoints are authorized to ask a driver suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) to consent to a voluntary test which will involve obtaining an oral fluid sample from their gum line and cheeks using a swab. The sample found on the swab will be immediately tested using a portable machine on site. The mouth swab procedure will be used along with breathalyzers that check for blood alcohol content.

The portable oral fluids test is capable of detecting other types of prohibited drugs such as:

  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Benzodiazepine (Xanax)
  • Methadone
  • Methamphetamine
  • Narcotic analgesics

The oral swabs are intended to replace the more invasive blood tests that were previously used to verify suspicions of drugged driving.

The swab testing tools have already been used 50 times in Los Angeles although the test results have not yet been used as evidence in any DUI case to date.

Aggressive DUI Enforcement

The addition of oral testing tools is part of the LAPD’s aggressive pursuit of impaired drivers in the region. In the previous year, the city prosecutor’s office filed 598 DUI cases involving drugs.

DUI Defenses

A limitation of the swab testing tool is that while it can detect certain substances from a tissue sample, it cannot provide information about the level of intoxication unlike a blood test. Without an additional blood test, anyone who is charged with DUI drugged driving can raise the defense that the presence of marijuana in their tissue sample is not to a degree that has impaired their driving ability.

Moreover, without any visible signs of impaired driving such as unsafe driving maneuvers or blood shot eyes, a driver stopped at a checkpoint can legally refuse to submit to a drug swab test. Any evidence obtained as a result of an illegal swab test may later on be challenged as inadmissible evidence and may not be used to convict the accused.

In Los Angeles, California, criminal defense attorney David S. Kestenbaum stands out for his years of experience as a former prosecutor in the Van Nuys area, allowing him to build a strong case and plan an effective defense for clients charged with DUI and other crimes. We invite you to us today at (818) 616-4312 or contact us online to arrange for your free consultation.