“It’s a huge concern of ours with the legalization of marijuana that we’re going to see an increase in impaired drugged driving,” San Diego Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman said during a press conference after voters in California passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act into law in November, which legalizes cultivation and use of marijuana for recreational purposes.
San Diego officials are using charged rhetoric indicating they plan to target intoxicated drivers, whether the drugs they’re under are legal or not.
“We want to get these impaired drivers off the streets,” Chief Zimmerman told reporters during a press conference.
“Impairment is impairment,” added Deputy City Attorney Taylor Garrot, who works solely on drugged driving cases as part of a state grant program.
“If your system can’t handle that level, then you shouldn’t be driving.”
There’s just one problem.
The Dräger 5000 doesn’t read the level of intoxication.
Once the machine detects any level of THC, opiates, cocaine, methadone, amphetamine, methamphetamine, or benzodiazapines that gives it a positive reading, it would likely prompt police to seek a blood test to garner a more specific reading.
And that could land you in jail while you await the results.
In California, there is no set limit under state law for an amount of drugs a person would be required to have in their system to be considered legally intoxicated, so the cops, as well as prosecutors, rely on subjective measures to judge a person’s impairment with the machine, which reads a mouth swab then issues a receipt with positive or negative reading.
A positive reading would likely result in the cop sending the driver to a police phlebotomist for more specific drug level tests.
Law enforcement officers trained to look for symptoms of impairment from drugs will look at various indicators to determine whether or not a driver is intoxicated, ranging from bloodshot eyes to the odor of marijuana to an unsafe driving maneuver, San Diego cop Emilio Ramirez said.
Once the officer has enough suspicion a driver is intoxicated, he or she can request the driver take the Dräger 5000 test, conduct a field sobriety test or likely both in their quest to gather evidence to incriminate you.
In order to use the machine, a mouth swab is handed to the driver. An officer instructs the driver to run the swab around the inside of their mouth for four minutes.
The swab, along with some testing solution, is placed into the machine while the machine calculates the results and prints the receipt.
If the swab test is negative, but the officer remains suspicious of impairment, then a blood draw could be mandated to test for drugs the Dräger DrugTest 5000 doesn’t test for.
Meanwhile, if you can’t make bail, that could mean weeks or months of incarceration while you await the results after the officer’s suspicion turns into probable cause for your arrest.
San Diego began using their Dräger DrugTest 5000s on St. Patrick’s Day after the San Diego Police Foundation donated two of the machines, which cost about $6,000 each.
The Dräger DrugTest 5000 premiered in the U.S. in 2009, and was recently adopted by Los Angeles police and is currently used by police in Australia, Germany and Belgium as well as New York, Nevada and Arizona.