A California assembly has put the kibosh on state law enforcement plans to implement roadside drug breathalyzers.
Assembly Bill 1356 would have allowed police to use devices similar to alcohol breathalyzers, however these devices would detect drugs in drivers' systems instead of alcohol. The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) and was supported by state law enforcement organizations and a broad coalition of roadway saftey organizations.
Unfortunately for Lackey and his cohorts, the bill did not garner enough votes to even advance to the next stage. The Assembly Public Safety Committee shot down the bill on Tuesday. Republicans supported the bill, but the Democrats on the committee did not.
According to Lackey, AB 1356 would have put California in the company of 12 other states that are on the cutting edge of combatting drugged driving. However the bill was heavily opposed by the Drug Policy Alliance and the large majority of defense attorneys.
“Officers have numerous tools to deal with drunk drivers, but lack the equivalent for drugs,” Lackey stated in a news release. “I hope California will have the courage to act in the future, but today was clearly a setback for roadway safety.”
Other proponents of the bill chimed in as well.
“I am disappointed that California will not be moving forward with a common sense tool to help keep high drivers off the roads,” Candace Lightner, President of We Save Lives, Founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and co-sponsor of AB 1356 stated in a news release. “Failing to pass Assembly Bill 1356 takes California in the wrong direction for keeping its roads safe and preventing victims of deadly crashes.”
Even if the roadside drug breathalyzer were to be implimented, it would by no means be a slam dunk for law enforcement. In order to gain a conviction, state prosecutors would still need to prove that the driver was impaired by other means, requiring a variety of evidence ranging from blood tests to the arresting officer's account of what happened.
Lackey says that he plans to reintroduce the bill in 2016.