Drug Use by Drivers Targeted

Drug Use by Drivers Targeted
Posted by CN Staff on November 08, 2007 at 07:05:59 PT
By Edwin Garcia, Mercury News Sacramento Bureau
Source: Mercury News 
Sacramento, CA -- While motorists may face criminal charges for driving with a blood alcohol level of at least 0.08 percent, the lack of a similar legal standard for driving under the influence of drugs has allowed many to avoid prosecution. Assemblyman John Benoit hopes to change that.Benoit, R-Riverside, announced legislation Tuesday to prohibit drivers with detectable amounts of certain dangerous and illegal drugs - such as methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin - from operating a vehicle.
Under existing law, drivers suspected of being under the influence of illegal drugs can be arrested. But successful prosecution is difficult, Benoit said, because juries are accustomed to a numerical standard, like the state's blood-alcohol law, to determine a motorist's level of impairment."People who should be convicted are not," Benoit told a news conference.It is unknown how many drivers under the influence of drugs escape prosecution in California. A Maryland study cited at the conference suggested that, at least in that state, driver injuries in crashes that involved drugs or alcohol were caused by drivers who were high nearly twice as often as those who were drunk.The proposed California law, AB 1215, asks the Legislature to set numerical values based on blood and urine samples to determine how high a driver is. But after an informational hearing by the Assembly Public Safety Committee after the news conference, Benoit said he was seriously considering modifying the proposal into a "zero-tolerance" law.The proposed law also would set a "per se" legal standard, which essentially means any amount of drug is sufficient for prosecution, similar to statutes in 16 other states. That lessens the burden on prosecutors to prove a driver was using illegal drugs at the time he or she was pulled over."If they are under the influence of cocaine, they shouldn't be driving; if they are under the influence of these illegal drugs, they should not be behind the wheel," said Benoit, a former California Highway Patrol officer.California doesn't have driving-while-drugged standards because of a lack of studies. Prosecuting drug-impaired drivers also is difficult because some drugs stay in a person's system longer than others. In addition, by the time someone is tested, much of the drug may have degraded."This is a tremendous challenge for prosecutors statewide because of the lack of a bright-line standard such as we have in the field of driving under the influence of alcohol," said Contra Costa County District Attorney Bob Kochly.The law wouldn't apply to marijuana users or those who take prescription drugs.The California DUI Lawyers Association and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice oppose the measure, mostly on two grounds. The groups say a new law is unnecessary because in many instances, people caught under the influence of illegal drugs, driving or not, must at minimum serve 90 days in jail. The groups also argue that drug test results can be inaccurate and vary from lab to lab.The measure is supported by the California Police Chiefs Association, the California Peace Officers Association and the California Narcotic Officers Association, among other law enforcement agencies and organizations.Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)Author:  Edwin Garcia, Mercury News Sacramento BureauPublished: November 7, 2007Copyright: 2007 San Jose Mercury NewsContact: letters mercurynews.comWebsite: Justice Archives
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Comment #10 posted by afterburner on November 08, 2007 at 21:29:12 PT
Hope & fight_4_freedom Re Use of Police Resources
CN BC: PUB LTE: Magic Bullets Exist, But We're Afraid To Fire, Vancouver Sun, (08 Nov 2007)
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Comment #9 posted by Hope on November 08, 2007 at 14:31:31 PT
You all might want to check out what is 
said about it, Fight4Freedom's comment, over at Grits for Breakfast and perhaps leave some comments yourselves.
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Comment #8 posted by whig on November 08, 2007 at 14:31:21 PT
how i'd do it
You have your light source (sunlight, or otherwise) and you gather that light with reflectors and focus it into a fiber which you then direct to your target that you want to illuminate without waste.
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Comment #7 posted by whig on November 08, 2007 at 14:28:09 PT
just a thought
Seems like fiberoptics could be a good thing for the environmental gardener of the future.
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Comment #6 posted by fight_4_freedom on November 08, 2007 at 14:11:53 PT:
Heres a article I just found
High Utility Bills May Lead Police To Your DoorThe special lights and watering systems used to grow marijuana indoors can spike a utility bill, easily doubling it.The American Civil Liberties Union said most police departments would have to work for the information it believes may unfairly profile people."In most cases, though, it's a private company, and the police department would have to get a subpoena to go after anybody they suspected," said Debbie Russell of the Central Texas ACLU.A utility database confidentiality agreement allows the Austin Police Department to access Austin Energy usage numbers."State law allows us to share information with other governmental entities, and APD is, of course, a city department," said Ed Clark of Austin Energy. " And so, really and truly, we wouldn't have a basis on which to deny information to them, and on the other hand, we are interested in assisting them."An APD representative agreed to talk to KXAN Austin News about using energy usage information, but just before the interview, the agency got a call from its attorneys, advising to refrain from commenting on the issue.APD issued a statement that said every case must go through the legal process, where all tactics are reviewed. It also said APD is confident that the measures it utilizes follow the law.The ACLU is trying to find out whether APD is searching energy use to find possible pot growers, without just cause."Are they profiling? Are they saying that anybody who uses this amount of energy must be a pot grower?" said Russell. "And kicking people's doors in late at night, when it might be an 85-year-old lady growing African violets?"The Texas Attorney General's office is getting involved, and the ACLU said this could be the beginning of a lengthy fight."This, I think, is opening up a whole interesting can of worms," said Russell.
kxan story
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Comment #5 posted by whig on November 08, 2007 at 14:08:47 PT
Paul Armentano
Thanks again for all that you do. It can't be said too often.
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Comment #4 posted by dongenero on November 08, 2007 at 12:19:08 PT
Well done Paul, thank you!
Now, I hope your reasoned testimony will prevail over histrionics.
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Comment #3 posted by paul armentano on November 08, 2007 at 09:52:11 PT
I testified against this bill on Tuesday...
The California Assembly's Committee on Public Safety took testimony on this bill Tuesday. Witnesses were almost exclusively from law enforcement, and were overt in their beliefs that passage of such a bill would make itv easier to gain convictions -- even if said convictions came at the expense of motorists who were not drug impaired. Virtually all of witnesses admitted that the proposed per se limits in the bill were not correlated with impairment, but claimed that the passage of such a law would put drivers "on notice." For now, the bill excludes cannabis. However, many witnesses criticized the bill's language for not including cannabis. I would not be surprised to see a revised version of the bill target cannabis, and cannabis metabolites, and be zero tolerant. That said, the sponsor did tell me that he intended to leave cannabis out of the bill for various reasons I raised -- including the fact that cannabis metabolites are identifiable long after past use, and the fact that the science assessing the impact on cannabis and driving is ambivalent. The Committee is expected to revisit this issue in January. Below are some excerpts of my testimony before the Committee.BTW, the above article does a TERRIBLE job summarizing the intent of AB 1215. The bill does not set "drug impairment" levels; it sets minimum drug detection levels that have nothing to do with impairment. (They're based on the workplace drug testing detection guidelines.) A driver does not have to be impaired to be convicted of DUI under this bill. Also, California --like all 50 states -- has very clear standards criminally prohibiting driving under the influence of drugs. This article claims otherwise. That's a crock. There were 199,000 CA drivers charged with DUI in the past year alone.Best,
Paul Armentano
NORML | NORML FoundationExcerpts from my 11/06/07 testimony --"Under current state law, “It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any … drug ... to drive a vehicle.” This is a multidisciplinary standard that focuses on the motorist’s observed behavior and rightly punishes those drivers who are determined to have been impaired by their use of illicit drugs. By contrast, Assembly Bill 1215, under strict interpretation, could potentially punish scores of drivers who are not intoxicated. This is because the law calls for criminally sanctioning motorists based not on their driving behavior – but rather, whether or not they have trace levels of non-psychoactive drug metabolites in their blood or urine." "Unfortunately, as currently written, AB 1215 would treat sober drivers as impaired and criminally punish them for their previous, non-driving-related activities. To do so is illogical. The purpose of our state’s traffic safety laws is to target and punish those drivers whose on-road actions threaten the safety and security of others; these laws should not be misused to enforce unrelated laws prohibiting the use of certain controlled substances in the privacy of one’s home.""There exists no evidence that the passage of these strict zero tolerance and/or per se laws are actually having any tangible effect in reducing the number of drugged drivers from the roadways. This is because, in most cases, those who violate our state’s drugged driving laws are habitual offenders whose actions are undeterred by the passage of strict criminal sanctions. In fact, the only published study to date to assess the impact of strict, zero tolerance per se DUID legislation reports: “[The enactment of] zero-concentration limit[s] have done nothing to reduce DUID or deter the typical offender because recidivism is high in this population of individuals.""In conclusion, I urge the members of the Public Safety Committee to oppose this legislation. While driving under the influence of illicit and licit substances is arguably an issue worthy of legislative concern, this proposal neither addresses the problem nor offers a legitimate solution. At best, it is an inappropriate, inflexible response to a negligible social ill. At worst, it is a cynical attempt to misuse the traffic safety laws to prosecute illicit drug consumers per se."
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Comment #2 posted by fight_4_freedom on November 08, 2007 at 09:12:22 PT:
It shocked me to see that as well
Here in Michigan if you get pulled over and you have and traces of THC in your body, you are subject to a DUI.But this legislation is for the state of CA which is way more progressive than most states. So who knows, maybe this is evidence we are becoming more accepted in society.
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Comment #1 posted by observer on November 08, 2007 at 09:00:41 PT
law wouldn't apply to marijuana users
The law wouldn't apply to marijuana users...Can this be correct? That's remarkably sane. It sounds too sane and reasonable to be true. My guess is that they will present this bill as not applying to cannabis users, but, at the last minute, it will turn out that it really IS targeting potheads, too. (Or especially.) It is easy enough for lawmakers to go back and quietly strike the "law wouldn't apply to marijuana users" bit, later. The "law wouldn't apply to marijuana users" clause is buried way down in there, anyway. Easy to forget about for calculating politicos. Since the great growth industry of government is busting evil marijuana "users and dealers" (i.e. every pot smoker), grandstanding authoritarians and demagogues won't be able to resist applying the law especially to marijuana users. Preying on potheads is basically what policing in the United Police States of Amerika is all about, in 2007. It is their religion there, punishing cannabis users. Every time they jail a pothead, a mighty blow against Satan and Timothy Leary is struck! (In their self-righteous minds, at least.) The evil ones (marijuana users, that is) are crushed under the wheels of justice! Yay! So yeah you bet 'cha. They say, "Oh no! This here law wouldn't apply to marijuana users!" But that's just to keep the sheep quiet, at least until they see what's around the next corner. Nice view, baaa baaa! I hope I'm wrong. But past experience tells me I'm usually not cynical enough. Using pot smokers for shrewd political gain -- "I smoked pot, but I didn't inhale, huh, huh!" (D.) or "I'll leave it up to the states!" (R.) -- is par for the crooked course.  Fool pot smokers into voting for you, then toss 'em in jail for paycheck and political gain. They will get fooled again. (And again, and agian...)
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