Officers face tough task enforcing drug-related DUIs

Posted at 11:45 PM, Nov 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-10 02:45:38-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- On January 1, it will be legal for businesses to sell pot in California. With that, the questions and concerns about what that means for drivers out on the roads.

“I think we will see an increase in DUI marijuana’s,” said Officer John Perdue, a San Diego Police officer in the traffic division.

Perdue is an expert at DUI and drug recognition. Since November 8, 2016, when California voters approved Prop. 64, or the adult use of marijuana act, he’s been hearing the same thing when he comes across drivers he suspects are driving high.

“Their first reaction is one of two, either A. ‘I have a medical marijuana card’, or B. ‘marijuana is legal.’ And I have to remind them, so is alcohol, but you still can’t drive under the influence of it,” Perdue said.

How exactly will police be able to tell if someone is driving high?

One tool that officers will use to help is the Drager Drugtest 5000, a presumptive drug screening test that can detect seven types of drugs in a person’s system.

Like an alcohol breathalyzer, Perdue said, “the person has every right to refuse this.” But unlike alcohol, it doesn’t have a percent limit.

If the Drager reads positive, Perdue said, “it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re impaired or under the influence, it just says that chemical or drug is in their body.”  

So to be arrested for DUI, it’s still up to the officer to decide if the driver shows impairment.

But that can be tough. Look at the Drager as an extra tool that’s used along with field sobriety tests, what an officer smells, sees or finds in the car, to formulate that officer’s opinion of whether a driver is high.

“The hardest thing will be, because there is no per se limit right now, the officers are really going to have to be aware of the signs and symptoms,” Perdue said.