State Run Labs A Possibility in Nevada?

Unlike most states in our country, Nevada does not have a state-run laboratory to handle their toxicology testing. It is only 1 of 2 states to not have a state-run lab. Within the state, the agencies mainly send their toxicology requests to two test centers, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police and the Washoe County Sheriff’s office.

Due to the limitations of the lab, tests for felony cases that are going to court are given priority so that results may appear in a few days. Anything else that may be considered time sensitive can wait up to nine months for their results. Such situations include DUI cases that are waiting on blood test results.

Regardless of which side you are on, the delay causes frustration. According to Clark County District Attorney David Roger, “For an individual who believes his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) is going to be below 0.08, that they’re not guilty of a crime, their life is on hold until the case is resolved…” People in cases like that are made to wait on edge, hoping that the results come out in their favor. For victims of DUIs, they hope the test is conducted sooner so that their cases can move through the process.

The Henderson Police Department has a team of only three people working the toxicology tests, working about 800 cases a year. While the state of Nevada only requires the results for BAC on a DUI case, the Henderson lab makes sure to test for around 100 other common drugs for each case. Although they are covering multiple bases, this also means that they are at their limit.

A state-run lab may help to ease the burden that these technicians are faced with, but it won’t be easy to get there. According to Roger, lots of funding and coordination will be required from the state to make sure that they get it right.

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Will Technology Help or Hinder Our Drive Home?

On DUI Central, we often discuss and reiterate the issues we have with the technology used to determine blood alcohol concentration levels. The most reliable method that is currently in use is the standard blood test. Since its creation, scientists have developed various other methods through which they could examine BAC levels, such as through skin sweat and breathalyzers.

Well, what happens when you try to use them together and in the comforts of your own vehicle? The Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) is trying to bring to life their Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) which they hope will just that. Currently, the hope is not to necessarily use both technologies together in a single vehicle, but that both systems are being considered and tested at length.

One system is a breath-based device that analyzes the driver’s exhaled breath to determine concentrations of alcohol and carbon dioxide. Through this analysis, the technology can measure the level of dilution in the exhaled air. In the second system, there is a touch-based mechanism that utilizes a touch pad and infrared lighting. The driver touches the pad and a light will shine directly onto his skin to determine alcohol concentration through the chemical components on the driver’s skin. Both systems allow the vehicle to start, but do not allow it to move if a concentration of 0.08% or higher is determined.

Testing started back in 2008, but as of October 2019, they have conducted a series of human subject testing to determine the accuracy of their systems in controlled environments.

The goal for groups such as MADD is to have the DADSS become a standard safety feature added to all cars. While it is not yet mandated, both the Senate and Congress have previously introduced legislation that require alcohol detection sensors to be used. Perhaps, the legislation would have a stronger foothold on the floor if there was a reliable system in place.

For some people, this new system seems to be a valid way to help stop people from making the mistake of assuming they are capable of driving. However, there are others who are concerned about the increased costs that come with mandating such a system. They also expressed that while safety is an issue, having the security mechanism in all cars could feel like having law enforcement inside your vehicle at all times.

The testing is still ongoing, so we will have to see how things develop. The accuracy of the devices has been called into question, notably whether the systems are accurately taking readings from the driver only and not other passengers in the same vehicle. That’s something that the researchers will have to take into consideration.

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Fresno Man Sentenced for Fatal DUI Crash

Some say that there is no bigger pain than losing your child. Sadly for Jose and Heidy Jimenez, they were robbed of the opportunity to even get to know their child.

Back on December 29, 2018, the Jimenezes were driving back from a dinner with Heidy’s parents. During the dinner, they had shared an ultrasound photo of their baby with her parents. Things changed when a man slammed into their car and caused serious damage.

Rafael Delgado, 27, was arrested at the scene for what was suspected to be drunken driving. His blood alcohol concentration would eventually be submitted as 0.16, twice the legal limit. Both Jose and Heidy were sent to the hospital to be treated. Jose had to be treated for major injuries to his leg and Heidy underwent cesarean section surgery to deliver her baby, Sophie Juliette. Unfortunately, Sophie passed on December 31, 2018.

The sentencing for Rafael Delgado took place on Wednesday, January 29th, 2020. Jose and Heidy gave tearful statements about their experience, evoking strong emotions about their loss. On the other side, there was a significant amount of support inside the courthouse for Delgado. Many of his family members showed up, and his mother made a statement to the judge pleading for mercy. They said that Delgado was a good man and had not been trouble with the law before.

Delgado himself issued an apology at the hearing, stating, “I am ashamed and angry for causing this horrible event that you will have to endure forever… I have failed my family, my community, your family, and myself.” He pleaded no contest to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI with BAC of 0.8% or more causing injury.

Ultimately, Judge Idiart took into consideration Delgado’s age and the lack of criminal history and sentenced him to seven years and four months with an added restriction. The prosecution argued that Delgado didn’t deserve leniency for the destruction he caused and had pushed for a full eight-year prison term. Judge Idiart explained that “Although you are eligible for probation, because of the carnage you have created probation is denied… I can’t overlook your age and the good things you have done in life and the support you have. And that just shows how tragic this whole situation is.”

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Seal Beach Police Department Awarded New Grant

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) awards grants throughout the year to various agencies to help fund important programs. This time around, the Seal Beach Police Department received the grant. They were awarded $19,700.00 from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to fight alcohol-related crime.

With this particular grant, the police force will focus on alcohol licensee inspections and underage minor decoy operations. The agents at the ABC have the expertise on alcoholic beverage law to oversee the inspections.

Specifically, the funds will be used to focus on reducing the number of alcoholic beverages sold to minors. According to the Seal Beach Police Department, they will “conduct operations specifically targeting those who sell alcohol to minors. This includes both retail employees and other community members who agree to purchase alcohol on behalf of those who are underage.”

This cooperation is also part of the Alcohol Policing Partnership Program (APP) which was designed to strengthen partnerships between the ABC and local law enforcement. It intends to penalize businesses who violate the law while also protecting minors from the bad operators.

The hope is that by reducing minors’ access to alcohol, they will also help deter people from committing other alcohol-related crimes such as DUI. Through this program, the ABC has noticed real changes in the communities that have acted on the initiatives.

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Alcohol-Related Deaths at an All Time High

According to a new study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, the number of alcohol-related deaths seems to have doubled in the last twenty years.

The researchers collected mortality data from death certificates filed in the U.S., analyzing trends from 1999 to 2017. In 1999, the number of those deaths was 35,914; by 2017, that number rose to 72,558. In the approximately twenty-year time period, they noted almost 1 million alcohol-related deaths for those over the age of 16.

Through the study, they found that the trends for per capita consumption, prevalence of alcohol use, and even binge-drinking all increased since the beginning of the new millennium. During the studied decades, the rates of emergency room visits and hospitalization went up by close to 50% across various periods. With such an overall upward trend, it is not surprising then to note that alcohol-related harm has increased.

In cases where death is linked to a cause such as alcohol-related liver cirrhosis, it becomes a bit easier to see the trend. However, the study is quick to address that “[t]he full magnitude of alcohol-related mortality in the United States is difficult to determine, in part because the contribution of alcohol is not always apparent at the time that a death certificate is completed.”

Not only that, the study also emphasized that while the calculations used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to obtain the estimated numbers of alcohol deaths are consistent, they are based on “research published prior to the year 2000 and have not been updated to reflect current alcohol consumption data and new knowledge about the contribution of alcohol to deaths from various injuries and disease states.”

While these numbers may not be as accurate as we hope, it is more likely that the actual numbers are even higher if the calculations were updated. The statistics tell us that alcohol consumption has become a huge issue in modern society. While there is no avoiding the fact that we need to start taking measures to try and lessen our love of drink, I am also very interested in knowing if part of the issue has to do with our longer lifespans.

Does the increased probability of having an alcohol-related health issue come truly from the frequency of which we imbibe, or does this trend actually come from the fact that we used to die from disease or other illness before the alcohol ran its course?

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