The San Diego Police Department has announced it is now using a device to detect the presence of marijuana and other drugs in drivers that they stop and suspect are impaired. According to the SDPD, they began using this device last weekend for St. Patrick's Day. This is the first time these types of machines have been used in San Diego and for now they will be utilized at DUI checkpoints
The “Draeger Drug Test 5000” machines cost about $6,000 each and are claimed to detect active levels of marijuana according to law enforcement. California police agencies are scrambling to find ways to curb the incidence of “impaired drugged driving” following the passage of Proposition 64 last November which legalized recreational use.
Supposedly an actual level of intoxication is not identified by this machine. The device is a preliminary device to detect the presence of drugs. A driver is given a swab which he or she is instructed to swab the inside of the mouth for several minutes. That swab is placed into the device which then purportedly identifies the presence of drugs.
So what are our rights as drivers? What is the science behind these machines? First, this device is clearly intrusive. As drivers, we only are obliged to submit to a breath or blood test if suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, and a blood test if suspected of impairment by drugs.
If an officer is “requesting” that you submit to this test, it is already a possibility that you will be arrested and that this test is just another method of stacking the odds against you. In a traffic stop or checkpoint, officers are not there to help you, they are there to arrest you if they suspect you of being impaired. What benefit is there in submitting to this test voluntarily? If the machine reads against you that the chances of you being arrested are nearly certain.
This drug machine, of course promoted as being very accurate by the manufacturer selling them for $6,000 a pop, is claimed to only look for active THC compounds in cannabis as opposed to inactive compounds. The fact is even with alcohol preliminary screening machines which have been used for years, an error in calibration and other issues can cause false readings.
The fact is that cannabis affects individuals differently. Frequent medical users with an active presence may not at all be impaired for the purposes of driving. Since the science is still incomplete, lawmakers have not set a numerical threshold at which all people are impaired, such as the .08% with alcohol.
As drivers, it becomes increasingly important to know our rights. My advice is to never drive with any amount of alcohol or drugs in your system. If you have been arrested, contact us immediately!