Introducing Senate Bill 1046

California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1046, which enforces ignition interlock devices. Starting January 1, 2019, ignition interlocks will be required for DUI offenders. We have been hearing about this program, pushed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for several years. It has been tested and used throughout the country to see if it was a successful program.

The pilot program started in 2010 and was tested in Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento, and Tulare Counties. The devices have prevented 125,000 attempts to drive by users who had a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or higher.

The DMV also released a report that found ignition interlock devices are 74% more effective than license suspensions.

How will the Ignition Interlock Devices be enforced?  

            With first time DUI offence that involves an injury, the Ignition Interlock Device will be required for six months.

            First time DUI offender with no injury can choose to have the Ignition Interlock Device for six months with full driving privileges or a one-year restricted license that only allows the offender to drive to work while also taking a treatment program.

            Second time DUI offenders will require the Ignition Interlock Device for one year.

            Third time DUI offenders will require the Ignition Interlock Device for two years

            Individuals who have 4 or more DUIs will be required to have the device for three years.  

The Ignition Interlock Device costs $60 to $80 per month with an installation fee anywhere between $70 to $150. There will be assistance programs for low-income individuals who cannot afford the installation fee.

The Ignition Interlock Device is currently required in 28 states and will very likely be required in all 50 states in the near future.  

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Marijuana Breathalyzers Tested in California

You’ve been hearing me say it for quite a while: Marijuana breathalyzers are coming soon. And it seems as though they’ve arrived.

Police officers in California teamed up with Mike Lynn, CEO of Hound Labs, which developed a marijuana breathalyzer that, not only tests whether a person has recently smoked, but can tell the officers what a person’s THC level is.

With marijuana breathalyzers in tow, officers requested a voluntary breath sample of people who had been observed driving erratically. Only people who were also drunk were arrested. Those of whom had either admitted to recently smoking marijuana or who tested positive for THC were provided safe rides home.

According to Lynn, the handheld device isolates the THC from the breath sample through a disposable cartridge and analyzes it. Following the analysis, the results are displayed on a screen.

“You smoke it, it goes into your lungs, into the blood, and for lack of a better term, comes back around and is exhaled in the breath,” said Lynn. “We’re measuring actual THC from the blood stream.”

Because the device measures the THC from the bloodstream, the breathalyzer can also detect THC consumed through marijuana edibles.

While it looks as though marijuana breathalyzers are on cusp of widespread use, the same oversight that I’ve complained about before remains. THC is not an accurate indicator of impairment. A person can have smoke a day, week, or month ago and yet still test positive for THC. Does that mean that they are unfit to operate a vehicle? No.

So until we can test actual impairment of marijuana, it seems to me as though current marijuana breathalyzers are valueless.

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The DUI Just Turned 119 Years Old

A little over 119 years ago, on September 10, 1897, the DUI was born. A London taxi driver named George Smith crashed his cab into a building and it was suspected that he had been drinking. He pled guilty and was fined 25 shillings, the modern equivalent to 40 British pounds or 67 US dollars.

Voila, the first DUI arrest and conviction.

The DUI made its first appearance in the United States in 1910 when New York became the first state to adopt a law against driving under the influence of alcohol.

At that time, there was no way for law enforcement to know exactly how drunk a person was. Therefore, the arrest and subsequent prosecution was based solely on the subjective observations of the arresting police officer.

It was not until 1938 that we began to develop a way to test how drunk a driver was. Indiana University professor, Rolla Harger, developed what called a “drunk-o-meter.” A person would blow into a balloon through a tube containing chemicals. If the breath contained alcohol, it would mix with the chemicals and create a color in the balloon. The more the alcohol, the greater the color change.

A year later in 1939, Indiana became the first state to pass a law that made it illegal to drive with a specific blood alcohol content. At that time, the legal limit was 0.15 percent.

Eventually, a more portable and accurate device for measuring blood alcohol content was developed in 1954 by Robert Borkenstein. It later became known as the breathalyzer.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, DUI laws and legislations took a shift in the United States as drunk driving concerns took the forefront of public awareness.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) was founded in 1980 and has pushed for stricter DUI laws since.

In 2000 the federal government adopted a national goal of 0.08 percent blood alcohol content and required that states adopt such a standard by 2004 in order to continue to receive federal highway funding. All states soon adopted the 0.08 percent per se limit.

As our understanding of intoxicants and driving evolve and our beliefs about drunk driving change, so do DUI laws.

Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that states lower the BAC limit to 0.05. Whether states follow the recommendation is yet to be seen.

It was recently announced that California began testing the first marijuana breathalyzer. Only time will tell how DUI laws might be affected by the new technology.

Until then, here’s to another year, DUI!

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Two LAPD Officers Under Investigation for False Report

Imagine this scenario: You are driving under the influence and collide your car with two other parked cars. Two officers are now at the scene and you are terrified. You are thinking of the worst possible scenario…spending the night in a jail cell. But luck may just be on your side. Instead of dealing with a sleepless night in a jail cell, these really nice officers give you a ride home and tell you to sleep it off. Sounds unbelievable right? Well this was the case for a drunken driver from Boyle Heights.

Two officers from the Los Angeles Police Department are currently on paid leave as they are in the process of being investigated for this random act of kindness. Should they be found guilty, they could serve up to three years in jail. 

The officers in question are Rene Marcia Ponce and Irene Gomez. They are currently facing charges of filing a false police report. They have pleaded not guilty.

The incident took place in October 2014 when the two officers were responding to a Boyle Heights call regarding a traffic collision. When they arrived at the scene, they found the drunk driver had collided with two parked cars. The officers drove the drunk driver home and “directed him to go to sleep”. After driving him home, the officers filed a false report stating that the driver had fled the scene.

In situations like this, officers are required to filed a DUI investigation and these two officers did the exact opposite. They are due back in court on October 11th.

Do you think that these officers should be convicted and should serve time in jail?

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Labor Day DUI Stats in for California

You can’t say I didn’t warn you. Law enforcement took to the streets in full force with checkpoints and saturation patrols throughout California over this past Labor Day weekend. The DUI statistics recently released by the California Highway Patrol confirmed as much.

According to CHP, 2,017 people were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in California in the first 2½ days of the Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, it was also reported that 30 people died in traffic-related collisions over the same period.

On Los Angeles County roads patrolled by the CHP, two people were killed in traffic-related collisions and 382 were arrested on suspicion of a California DUI from 6 p.m. on Friday evening to 6 a.m. Monday morning.

During the same period last year, 10 people were killed in traffic-related collisions. However, this year saw 11 less DUI arrests in Los Angeles County than last year during the same period which had 393 DUI arrests.

CHP also reported that San Diego County had 64 people arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence by Labor Day Monday. San Diego saw no traffic-related deaths over this year’s holiday weekend, down from two deaths last year.

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