DUI Enforcers!


  • Friday, February 15, 2013 11:14 AM | Anonymous



    WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today the establishment of a National Commission on Forensic Science as part of a new initiative to strengthen and enhance the practice of forensic science. The National Commission on Forensic Science will be composed of approximately 30 members, bringing together forensic science service practitioners, academic researchers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and other relevant stakeholders to develop policy recommendations for the Attorney General. The commission will consider guidance on practices for federal, state and local forensic science laboratories developed by groups of forensic science practitioners and academic researchers administered by NIST. 


    “Forensic science is an essential tool in the administration of justice and needs to be continually evaluated as science progresses,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. “Forensic science helps identify perpetrators, convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent, and protect public safety. This initiative is led by the principle that scientifically valid and accurate forensic analysis strengthens all aspects of our justice system.” 


    The full Press Release is here. 


  • Monday, January 28, 2013 10:05 AM | Anonymous

    In ASA vs. DEA, the DC Circuit was asked to decide whether the DEA properly classified Marijuana as a Schedule1 drug--a drug having no accepted medical use.  The court concluded that the DEA did not abuse its discretion in concluding that as of 2011-the scientific studies do not support a conclusion that marijuana has an accepted medical use.  The court supported the DEA assessment that simply because States are making marijuana legal under state law does not affect scientific acceptance.  In the absence of scientific studies, DEA can continue to keep marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. 

    The full Opinion may be found here:ASA vs. DEA (2012) 

  • Thursday, December 20, 2012 10:17 AM | Anonymous

    The state supreme court today reinstated the Felony DUI conviction of a Grant County driver.  The Court of Appeals had reversed Mr. Arreola's conviction concluding it was a pretext stop, which violated the driver's constitutional rights.  While the officer had suspicions the driver was intoxicated because of an earlier DUI complaint, the officer stopped the car for a muffler violation.   In this "mixed motive" circumstance, where officers have both lawful and unlawful basis for a stop, the State Supreme Court concluded that officers are allowed to exercise their discretion to make the stop.

    The ruling was critical to the success of the Target Zero Teams concept funded by the legislature and the centerpiece for DUI enforcement in urban areas.  If the earlier court of appeals decision on Arreola had survived, many DUI investigations would likely have been reversed because DUI teams are trained to look for infractions that indirectly suggest DUI driving.   Under the court of appeals reasoning, stopping a driver for having their headlights out, when the DUI emphasis officer was highly motivated by DUI investigations, would likely have doomed the arrest.   

    The new Arreola opinion makes clear that officers who regularly enforce the traffic code can continue to do so without fear that DUI suspicions will overshadow the stop.   

    The majority opinion is here.    The two member dissent is here. 

  • Wednesday, December 19, 2012 8:31 AM | Anonymous

    PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (AP) Matt Bush, a former top overall major league draft pick, has been sentenced to four years and three months in prison for a drunken driving hit-and-run crash in Florida.

    As part of a deal, the 27-year-old pleaded no contest Tuesday to driving under the influence with serious bodily injury. Six other counts in the March crash were dropped. Because it's his third DUI, Bush will also lose his license for 10 years. He has already spent nine months in jail.

    Bush's attorney, Russell Kirshy, called the deal fair.

    Authorities say Bush's blood alcohol level was 0.18 percent - more than twice the legal limit - when he hit 72-year-old Tony Tufano's motorcycle and left the scene in North Port, about 40 miles northwest of Fort Myers.

    Bush was the top pick in 2004 and pitched in the minors. The Tampa Bay Rays released him in October.

    The Associated Press
  • Thursday, December 06, 2012 8:14 AM | Anonymous

    The DEA shows no sign of ignoring state marijuana sales.  Little more than a month ago, a federal jury awarded $1.7 million to the government.   Importantly, the federal judge agreed that federal forfeiture law does not allow reduction for start up costs or operational costs.  The growers were forced to pay the amount they took in sales--meaning they lost their entire investment and all profits.  

    The full article on the case is here: Missoulan Article  

    The ruling points out the precarious position of manufacturers and the State itself.  Nothing forbids the DEA from simply waiting for a year or more, then seizing the entire income from both.  Just as in Montana, the growers and distributers would be bankrupt.  The bigger targer is, of course, the State.  If the State actually collects millions in taxes while violating federal law--that is a pretty easy target.   Note that seizure would take all taxes collected from marijuana--leaving the state with big bills for its new marijuana regulatory agency. 

  • Wednesday, November 21, 2012 9:28 AM | Anonymous
    National Forensic Laboratory Information System: 2011 Annual Report

    U.S. Dept of Justice; Drug Enforcement Administration

    Office of Diversion Control; November 2012


    Download the report here


    An estimated 1,660,216 drug reports were submitted to State and local forensic laboratories in the United States from January 1 through December 31, 2011, and analyzed by March 31, 2012.

    This is a decrease of 3% from the 1,713,360 drug reports identified during2010.


    Cannabis/THC was the most frequently identified drug (536,630 reports) in 2011, followed bycocaine (333,645 reports), methamphetamine (160,960 reports), and heroin (119,765 reports).


  • Tuesday, November 20, 2012 1:07 PM | Anonymous

    In California, more drivers are high than drunk


    By Lauren Steussy, NBCLosAngeles.com


    About one in seven drivers on California roadways may be under the influence of drugs, according to a new survey by the state’s Office of Traffic Safety.  The survey released Monday tested more than a thousand drivers on weekend nights in nine California cities.


    Roughly 14 percent of those drivers tested positive for drugs that might impair driving. Half as many of the drivers surveyed by the OTS tested positive for alcohol. Compared to national statistics, the number of drug-impaired drivers has increased throughout the years. It reinforces officials’ belief that driving under the influence of drugs – in addition to alcohol – is a serious and growing problem, said Christopher J. Murphy with the OTS.


    The results highlight the need for more officers who are trained to detect drug-impaired driving. Without blood tests, it’s harder for officers to prove in court that a driver was under the influence of drugs.“But these folks that have been through the drug enforcement expert training -- if one of them can evaluate a driver accused of being under the influence of drugs, that testimony will normally hold up in court,” said OTS spokesperson Chris Cochran.  The office also plans to increase the numbers of District Attorneys dedicated to drug-impaired driving cases, and purchase better lab equipment.

    Of the drugs found in those tested, marijuana was the most prevalent. More than 7 percent of drivers tested positive for the substance.


    The survey also found a significant number of drivers under the influence of both drugs and alcohol. About 23 percent of the drivers who were found to have alcohol in their systems also tested positive for some kind of drug, be it prescription or otherwise.

  • Monday, November 19, 2012 10:23 AM | Anonymous

    At least one DUI defense attorney is already making news by claiming he intends to challenge the 5 nanogram THC level passed in Initiative 502.  The claim is that the level violates Equal Protection provisions in the constitution.


    The challenge isn’t new.  This was already tried in Nevada in 2002 when they passed their DUI marijuana law.  The Nevada state supreme court rejected the argument.  Interestingly, Nevada’s law is much more stringent that Washington’s new law.  Nevada banned 2 ng THC in blood and 5 ng Carboxy-THC in blood.  Washington’s per se level is 5 ng THC and there is no limit on carboxy-THC.  (The new Washington law actually says carboxy-THC is inadmissible.)


    The full text of the Nevada case is here: Williams v Nevada (2002)


    The defense argument is also very similar to what our own State Supreme court rejected in State v. Franco in 1982.  While the drug at issue in Franco was alcohol, the argument was the same: “How can someone know what an illegal amount of drinking is when it varies from person to person?”  The court concluded that drivers had sufficient information that impairment from alcohol varies but drivers have a duty to figure it out and not be impaired or exceed the legal limit when driving.


    The combination of the two cases is compelling:  There is no constitutional right to smoke marijuana, so prohibiting any level of THC is constitutionally defensible.  The kenetics of how quickly or slowly marijuana is eliminated from a person’s system are the responsibility of the driver. 


    Moral of the story:  Keep of the Grass LONG before driving!


  • Tuesday, November 13, 2012 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    I-502, decriminalizing state marijuana possession under 1 oz., was approved by Washington voters.  The text of the new law is here. Some are wondering what this means in the short term for law enforcement.  In other words, what happens December 6th?  The Seattle Police Department promptly published a Police Blotter outlining some thoughts on the issue:SPD Police Blotter

    The Blotter isn't legal advice and it doesn't say who provided the legal analysis, but it gives us some idea for how the new law is going to be interpreted.   Of course, there will be disagreement with some of the conclusions. 

    For example: Is it legal under state law to possess less than an ounce of marijuana after December 6?  The Blotter says yes, but the new law has multiple requirements suggesting that conclusion is wrong. 

    Not all marijuana becomes legal on December 6. What becomes legal is marijuana from a "validly licensed marijuana retailer."  Those retailers won't exist until sometime in late 2013. 

    Arguably, there is no "legal" marijuana anywhere in Washington until these legal outlets are established.   While the use of medical marijuana is also permitted, the use of medical marijuana is a defense against conviction--not arrest.  Medical marijuana laws mean an officer can investigate the fact that an illegal substance is suspected and it doesn't invalidate probable cause to arrest.     The intersection between R-502 and Medical Marijuana laws is confusing, but police authority to arrest based on marijuana posssession probably still remains in place after December 6, 2012.  

  • Thursday, October 25, 2012 8:22 AM | Anonymous

    As of October 21, 2011 - Methylone was banned under an Emergency DEA order.


    The DEA proposes to placement of Methylone Into Schedule I permanently:


    SUMMARY: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) proposes placing 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylcathinone (methylone) including its salts, isomers, and salts of isomers whenever the existence of such salts, isomers, and salts of isomers is possible, into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This proposed action is pursuant to the CSA which requires that such actions be made on the record after opportunity for a hearing through formal rulemaking.


    The complete text of the proposal can be found in the Federal Register here


    Methylone is a relatively recent synthetic concoction that produces symptoms similar to several drug classifications, including amphetamines, cathinones, and entactogens (pychoactive drugs with particular qualities).  Users state this drug is similar to MDMA (ecstasy)-but not precisely--with more of a depressant effect.   Methylone is marketed over the internet and in drug shops in 5 ml tubes as a "room odorizer" under the name "Explosion."  The tubes cost between $13 and $17 each--far in excess of other products designed to actually mask odors.  


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