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DUI drivers may face instant drug tests in LA

Suspected drunk drivers may face instant drug tests at checkpoints in Los Angeles this holiday season.
December 27, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Local law enforcement has a new tool to crack down on drunken drivers over the New Year's holiday, and drivers could face instant drug tests at DUI checkpoints.

"If you drink or if you're using drugs, don't drive," said L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer.

The L.A. City Attorney's Office received a half-million-dollar federal grant to expand use of a device called the Drager 5000. A swab of saliva is taken from a driver, and within minutes the device analyzes the presence of cocaine, marijuana and other substances. A second saliva swab is taken for independent testing.

"We anticipate making a large number of DUI for alcohol- and drugs-related arrests on New Year's Eve," said LAPD Commander Andrew Smith. "We don't want to, but we're prepared to do so."

Officials say the crackdown includes medical marijuana.

"Even one who is legitimately permitted to have medical marijuana has to be very careful not to be driving under the influence, even of that lawful medication," said Feuer.

Statistics show that deaths and injuries caused by alcohol-related traffic crashes rise 86 percent during the holiday season. During the two-week period last year, the city attorney's office prosecuted nearly 600 DUI cases.

The federal money will also pay for two extra assistant district attorneys who will concentrate on DUI prosecution.

The LAPD says it will increase the number of DUI checkpoints leading up to the new year, and extra motorcycle and traffic officers will be patrolling the streets looking for impaired drivers.

"We want to make sure everybody gets the message loud and clear, that there will be a zero-tolerance policy for the police department for people driving under the influence of narcotics or drugs," said Smith.

Authorities say you should make a plan before you go out to celebrate the new year. Have a designated driver, or arrange other transportation, or walk.


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