The Los Angeles City Attorney has announced they plan on using a new oral swab on people suspected of DUI. This swab will test for the presence of substances such as marijuana, as well as drugs like cocaine. Although it seems that Orange County has not used this swab test on people stopped at Orange County DUI checkpoints yet, it seems likely they will follow LA’s lead on this new enforcement tool.
Oral swabs used in these tests are currently being used by Fullerton, Sacramento, and Bakersfield DUI stops. The reliability of these swabs, and the interpretation of the test results are likely going to be hotly debated as these cases begin to make their way through the court system. A lot of drug testing will test for the broken down metabolites of drugs after they have been processed through your body. Hence, the active ingredient that causes the euphoria or “high” has already been processed and is no longer effective in your blood stream.
Since California DUI law requires your driving to be impaired by drugs or alcohol, it seems unlikely that a test that measures the waste material of a drug - instead of the active ingredient - is the most reliable form of testing.
Drivers who are stopped and asked to submit to this test should know that these tests are voluntary, and there are no legal penalties for refusing to take the test. If you are arrested, there are penalties for refusing the breath or blood test. By voluntarily providing these samples you will be giving the state evidence that will be used to convict you of a crime you may not be guilty of violation.
It seems that the government is justifying this new tactic on the rise of medical marijuana dispensaries. Without putting for any data to support his claims, the LA City Attorney Mike Feuer is quoted by news sources as saying such dispensaries, “... has led more drivers, including lawful card-carrying users, to get behind the wheel under the influence of the drug.” He later goes on to say that the City Attorney’s office has kept no records to verify such claims, but will begin doing so in the future.
If you are stopped at any of the Orange County DUI Checkpoints, you should refuse to submit to this testing until you have the opportunity to consult an attorney. You can call our office twenty-four hours per day and talk with an attorney. There are also reports of other checkpoints being implemented to collect DNA samples from random motorist across the nation. It is important to protect yourself against an over-aggressive collection of your medical, and other personal, data.