New DUI Legislation Introduced in California
On February 24th the California Legislature introduced AB 2552, an Act to amend the state’s Vehicle Code as it relates to California driving under the influence (DUI). The bill, sponsored by Norma Torres of California’s 61st district, would make it a crime for a person who has any level of cannabis or synthetic cannabis compound in his or her blood or urine to drive a vehicle. The bill would presume a person had cannabis in his or her blood or urine at the time of driving if the substance is present in the body at the time of testing, which is to be performed within three hours after driving.
Assemblywoman Norma Torres, in an interview with the Daily Bulletin, believes the law is necessary to save lives, citing a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report that 30 percent of all drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes in California in 2010 tested positive for legal and or illegal drugs. Torres said that although the bill isn’t perfect, “we still can’t ignore the fact that driving under the influence is a growing problem that we need to address.”
The bill is intended to reduce reckless driving and is part of the “zero tolerance” policies centered on drug use. Existing law already prohibits a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle. AB 2552 goes further though, by criminalizing driving with cannabis in your blood regardless of whether the substance actually impairs driving.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization devoted to de-criminalizing drug laws, opposes the legislation. In a letter to Assemblywoman Torres, LEAP Executive Board Member Stephen Downing argued the Act “…relieves the decision-maker of the burden of making sound legal judgment…” and could actually cause more harm than good. Opponents of the bill believe it can lead to abusive DUI checkpoints by police departments.
Even more frightening is the potential arrest and conviction for impaired driving which may have never occurred because marijuana stays in the body for up to 30 days after use. This means that a driver may have used the illegal substance three weeks prior but can still be arrested, charged and convicted of driving under the influence if the drug is still found in their system.
Proponents of the law, including Paul Chabot, MPA, Ed.D, president of Coalition for a Drug Free California, argues the Act will protect California residents from “drugged drivers” and will make our communities safer for all those using California roads.
Although this bill has yet to become law, it is important for Californians to understand the proposed legislation and how it can potentially impact you. California continues to enact laws to combat impaired driving—even when they may not necessarily serve their intended purpose. No matter what, our firm is committed to carefully explaining how all DUI laws may impact your specific case and fighting for your rights. If you’ve been arrested for DUI in the North Bay area, either as a result of alcohol consumption or cannabis use, our experienced Santa Rosa DUI attorneys are here to help. We serve residents in many areas including communities like Santa Rosa, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Windsor, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, Kelseyville and throughout Sonoma County, Mendocino County and Lake County. Please contact us to see how we can ensure your legal rights are respected.
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