New SDPD tool to detect drugged driving raises questions, concerns

Chief to talk to Pacific Beach residents Wednesday
Posted at 7:33 AM, May 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-17 11:11:21-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego Police Department Chief Shelly Zimmerman will be in Pacific Beach Wednesday night to answer questions about the department's new tool to fight drugged driving.

In March, the department unveiled the Drager 5000 -- a device that uses saliva from a mouth swab to test for seven different drugs: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine, amphetamine, methadone and benzodiazepines.

The department has two of devices, which were donated by the San Diego Police Foundation.

Since the roll out, the SDPD has only used the machines 10 times at DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols. From those tests, only two people have been charged with drugged driving.

According to the police, they have only asked 12 drivers total to submit to the tests.

Community members still have questions about the tests and how the police will use them.

The Pacific Beach Town Council asked Zimmerman to speak at their monthly meeting to discuss more specifics.

Meanwhile, criminal defense lawyers also have questions. Cole Casey, a lawyer who specializes in vehicular crimes, said the legislature needs to set specific limits for what constitutes "drugged driving."

"When you drink, we know .08 is the limit," he said. "No one has said what the limit is for drugs."

Casey also mentioned that THC, the chemical compound found in marijuana, can stay in your system for weeks after the effects of the drug have worn off. A driver can still test positive even if they're not high.

"That can lead to a lot of false positive results," he said.

The public meeting will be at the Crown Point Jr. Music Academy at 6:30 p.m.

Click here to learn more about the California Department of Motor Vehicles' rules regarding alcohol and drugs.