Carol Stream Police to begin using new Drugged Driving Detection test

The Carol Stream Police Department is about to begin trying out a new drugged driver detection device, called the PIA2, which is made by Protzek (I’ve never heard of them before, but you have to wonder about their accuracy when their materials misspell the word “saliva”).

From the Chicago Tribune:

…the device that Carol Stream police plan to test, called P.I.A.2 , gives measurements for the amount of drugs present.

That’s important, because while Illinois used to define impairment as having any amount of cannabis or other controlled substance in the body, last year lawmakers raised that minimum threshold to 5 nanograms per milliliter in the blood, and 10 ng/mL in other bodily fluids.

But the Illinois State Police crime laboratory is not certified to give such precise measurements, and local police agencies say it can take months to process a request. Therefore, police sometimes send samples to private labs, which can be quicker but also costlier.

That’s where the new field test comes in. For drivers who submit to a blood draw, Carol Stream police plan to ask them also to volunteer for the mouth swab, not for use in court, but simply to compare its accuracy to the lab test. The department plans to conduct at least 100 comparisons over the next year, beginning around March.

Testing devices can cost $3,000 to $6,000, but the manufacturer of the unit in question, a German company called Protzek, will provide it for free to the village. Officials claim its accuracy is comparable to state-of-the-art laboratory techniques.

Len Jonker, president of Judicial Testing Systems, the distributor for Protzek here, said he is in talks about supplying the device to other law enforcement agencies in Illinois as well.

The tests have been challenged in some state courts but have been upheld as a preliminary step to establish probable cause to make an arrest, according to the National District Attorneys Association.

Still, the tests cannot yet be used as conclusive evidence in court, and still require a blood draw for confirmation, the prosecutors reported.

Dan Linn, executive director of the marijuana advocacy group Illinois NORML, said he welcomes the test for accuracy.

“We advocate for legalizing cannabis, but that does not mean we advocate people driving impaired by cannabis,” he said. “The bigger question is, who is driving impaired, and who just has cannabis in their systems.”

Illinois law has zero tolerance for driving on controlled substances other than marijuana, meaning any amount is enough to convict someone of DUI.

Yet unlike alcohol, which has been shown to cause impairment at a blood alcohol level of 0.08, no numeric levels have been established to show impairment from various drugs, because their effects vary so widely from person to person, depending in part on the user’s tolerance.

That’s why Linn believes it’s better to have trained police officers try to assess from direct observations whether a driver is impaired.

Police and prosecutors agree, and for that reason call for more training of officers as drug recognition experts, or DREs. While the standard field sobriety test — where drivers are asked to walk in a straight line and turn around, stand on one leg and close their eyes and touch their nose — was designed primarily to detect the influence of alcohol, the DRE test uses more subtle signs to try to detect drugs.

Dilated or constricted pupils, incomplete or repetitive speech, tremors in the eyelids or hands, odors, high pulse or body temperature, nervousness or lack of inhibition may all be considered signs of impairment from various drugs.

Processing a DUI arrest is time-consuming, and the new law that set the cannabis intoxication standard on driving under the influence states that police must take a blood sample within two hours. Police say that’s often impractical or impossible, especially in rural areas far from a hospital.

That’s why interest is so high in finding a quick technological fix.

Read the entire story here:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/ct-met-police-drug-driving-test-20171205-story.html

 

Cleveland Cavalier Shumpert arrested for Marijuana DUI

From TMZ:

Cleveland Cavs star Iman Shumpert was arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana back in August … TMZ Sports has learned.

According to the police report, Shumpert was pulled over outside of Atlanta on August 10th around 11:37 PM for a lane change violation and because his taillights weren’t on in his rented Audi A3.

During the stop, the officer says Shumpert reeked of weed — and his eyes were bloodshot.

Shumpert told the cop he had just come from his “homegirl’s house” and was going to pick up his father from the airport.

The cop administered a field sobriety test and determined Shumpert was high. Shumpert also admitted he had smoked weed before leaving his friend’s house.

Cops searched the car and found a mason jar with marijuana.

Cops wanted to perform a blood test on Shumpert but he refused — claiming, “people would recognize him and it would cause a scene.”

Shumpert was handcuffed and arrested for DUI marijuana and possession of weed (less than an ounce). He was also cited for failure to maintain his lane.

The Cavs issued a statement saying they have discussed the situation with Iman and “will monitor the progression of the pending case.”

 

Marijuana decriminalization bill signed by Gov, ends “Zero Tolerance” Pot DUI law

Governor Rauner signed into law SB 92228, which makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a fine only offense, and sets a new legal limit for operating under the influence of cannabis, replacing a zero tolerance standard and replacing it with a new “legal limit” of 5 nanograms of THC per mililiter of whole blood (or 10 nanograms in saliva or other bodily substance).

Not affected by this change is the previous law that also made it a DUI offense to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis.

The fine for marijuana possession under 10 grams will be a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $200.  Anyone cited for possession of marijuana paraphernalia at the same time will only be subject to a fine in a similar amount.

Since possession of marijuana under 10 grams is now a civil violation instead of a criminal offense, the legislature was able to ease the prosecution’s burden of proof.  A crime lab testing showing that the substance was tested and proven to be marijuana is no longer required; the prosecution can establish its case either through opinion testimony by the arresting officer (with the proper foundation) or use of a properly conducted field test.

Under the new law, anyone fined for possession of marijuana in an amount less than 10 grams will have their citation automatically expunged, if they have paid their fine and completed their sentence.  The Clerk is to expunge these cases twice a year, on or before January 1 and July 1.

 

Amended bill setting “legal limit” for marijuana DUIs sent to Governor

Last August, Governor Rauner vetoed a bill which would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and replaced Illinois’ “zero tolerance” cannabis DUI law with a “legal limit” of 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of whole blood. At the time, the Governor stated that he recommended a limit of 5 nanograms, the standard adopted by Colorado.

The State legislature has now passed a new bill which incorporates the Governor’s objections to last year’s bill.

From the Chicago Tribune:

House lawmakers sent Gov. Bruce Rauner legislation on Wednesday to decriminalize marijuana across Illinois, meaning people caught with small amounts of marijuana would be fined instead of receiving jail time.

The legislation incorporates changes the Republican governor suggested when he used his amendatory veto powers to rewrite similar legislation last year. Rauner said the old version would have let people carry too much marijuana and set fines too low.

The new edition drops the number of grams allowed from 15 to 10 and raises the range of fines from $55 to $125 to between $100 and $200. Municipalities could add to the fines and implement other penalties, such as a requirement for drug treatment. Citations would be automatically expunged twice a year, on Jan. 1 and July 1.

Under current Illinois law, possession of up to 10 grams is a class B misdemeanor that could result in up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,500…

The bill also would loosen the state’s zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence. As it stands, a driver can be charged if any trace of marijuana is detected, even if it was ingested weeks before and the driver shows no signs of impairment. Under the newest proposal, drivers would not be charged with a DUI unless they have 5 nanograms or more of THC in their blood, or 10 nanograms or more of THC in their saliva.

New study raises problems in setting “legal limit” for marijuana DUIs

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Mary Wisniewski):

Legal blood limits for marijuana are not an accurate way to measure whether someone was driving while impaired, and can lead to unsafe drivers going free while others are wrongfully convicted, according to a new study.

The study released Tuesday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers can have a low level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in their blood and be unsafe behind the wheel, while others with relatively high levels may not be a hazard.

Marijuana is not metabolized in the system in the same way as alcohol. So while a person with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher is considered too drunk to drive, it’s not possible to say the same thing absent other evidence about a person testing at 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood of THC — the level used to find impairment by Colorado, Montana and Washington, the study found.

The difference matters, because Illinois and 11 other states have laws that forbid any level of marijuana in the system while driving. A pot decriminalization bill being considered in the Illinois legislature would raise the level to 5 ng/ml. The bill faces opposition from law enforcement and anti-pot advocates.

Efforts to legally measure marijuana impairment have become a major concern for lawmakers as more states move to legalize cannabis, either for medical use or adult recreational use. Four states have legalized pot for recreational use by adults, and 24 states — including Illinois, plus Washington, D.C. — allow medical use, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a D.C.-based advocacy group.

“It’s an attempt to try to do an apples-to-apples comparison with blood alcohol concentration,” said Chris Lindsey, senior legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. He noted that the AAA findings echo earlier research. “They found out that these things can’t really be compared.”

Another problem is that high THC levels may drop before a test is administered, because the average time to collect blood from a suspect driver is often two hours, the AAA study found. Frequent pot users can exhibit high levels of the drug long after use, while levels can decline rapidly among occasional users, so it is difficult to develop fair guidelines, the study found.

Because of the problem in measuring whether someone is impaired with a blood test, AAA urged states to also look at behavioral and physiological evidence through field sobriety tests, such as seeing whether a driver has bloodshot eyes or is able to stand on one leg.

“That kind of testing has proved effective in court,” said J.T. Griffin, chief government affairs officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD.

He pointed to a 2015 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that found no big crash risk associated with people driving with marijuana in their system but says more study is needed. Alcohol remains the biggest drug problem on the highways, he said.

Read the full story here:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-marijuana-driving-study-aaa-20160509-story.html

Making it easy: Woman arrested for smoking pot outside police station

…while illegally parked in an officer’s car!

From the Chicago Tribune:

In what Riverside police are calling “probably the easiest cannabis arrest” they’ve ever made, a Chicago woman has been accused of smoking pot in her car outside the police station in a parking space reserved for squad cars.

According to a news release from the Riverside Police Department, Elizabeth Klebba, 21, on Monday was parked in a spot marked “police unit parking only” outside the station at 31 Riverside Road. She was waiting for a friend who on Saturday had been charged with DUI and who was attempting to retrieve her impounded vehicle.

When an officer approached the 2002 Toyota, Klebba was in the driver’s seat, the passenger window was open and the officer “could smell a very strong odor of cannabis coming from inside the vehicle,” according to the news release.

When Klebba exited her vehicle, she was asked if there was marijuana inside and replied there was, police said. The officer recovered a container with a substance that tested positive for marijuana, and two items used for smoking marijuana, both of which contained the substance, police said.

Klebba, of the 5900 block of South Karlov Avenue in Chicago, was cited under village ordinances for possession of cannabis, possession of drug paraphernalia and also for improper parking.

“To think that an individual would come into the police parking lot, park in a spot that was posted as ‘police unit parking only’ and then openly smoke cannabis is simply absurd,” Riverside police Chief Thomas Weitzel said.

“The smoking of cannabis and cannabis possession has become so commonplace in America today that individuals don’t give it a second thought as to where and when they smoke it — not even if it is in a police station parking lot,” he said.

Actually, Ms. Klebba got off easy.  Under Illinois law, she could have been charged with driving under the influence, because a) she was in “actual physical control” of a motor vehicle by sitting behind the wheel of her car and b) arguably had “any amount” of cannabis in her blood, breath or urine.  625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(6). It is a sign of the times that this “zero tolerance” DUI law has been looked at with disfavor and is not consistently applied anymore.

Court vacates 7 year sentence for woman who caused accident 2 days after smoking pot

Over four years ago, I posted this blog post entitled “Why is this woman facing 6 to 28  years in prison?”  It was about a young woman named Alia Bernard, who, two days after smoking marijuana, caused a fatal motor vehicle crash.  Under Illinois’ draconian “zero tolerance” laws, she was sentenced to seven years in prison for the crime of driving while there was still trace residue of marijuana in her system (and causing a fatal accident, which otherwise would have been mostly a civil matter).

Common sense (sort of) prevailed when a new judge vacated her sentence and sentenced her to probation instead (the judge that sentenced her to prison has retired).  I say that common sense “sort of” prevailed because I don’t think that there is any common sense to a law that punishes having traces of marijuana in your blood instead of punishing people that are actually under the influence; but under our ridiculous laws, probation was the best sentence she could get.

In Illinois, probation can only be given in a fatal DUI case when there are extraordinary circumstances (even in a case like this, when the person was not “under the influence”).  The new judge stated in re-sentencing Bernard: “The criminal act, which is the cannabis in the system, played no role in this action … the facts of this case are unique and for me, rise to the level of extraordinary circumstances.”

Congratulations to defense attorney Donald Ramsell, who took over the case and raised issues in the State Police crime lab’s blood testing that led to the new sentence.