Back-seat Driver: Drivers suspected of being drug-impaired no longer can request urine test

12/28/2012 12:00 AM

07/10/2013 10:14 AM

Drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs will no longer be allowed to request a urine test, as a result of a California law rewrite. They must instead take a blood test if asked.

The new law, from Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, closes what officials say is a legal loophole: Some drugged-driving arrestees demand a urine test, then argue in court that the urine test is unreliable.

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones and District Attorney Jan Scully back the change. "The elimination of urine testing would ensure that those who drive while under the influence of drugs will be held accountable for their actions," Scully said in a press statement.

Public defenders cried foul. They say urine samples provide accurate enough evidence in drug instances, and allow drivers to choose not to be pricked by a needle.

Pan's law has a secondary effect. It should help safety officials collect better data on the number of people driving with drugs in their system.

Blood tests, they say, are better at determining if drugs are in a person's system.

Typically, officers start with a breath test when they suspect someone of driving under the influence. But they can require a blood or urine test if they believe the person is under the influence of a drug.

Modern street scene

At the corner of 21st and Q streets last week: A driver has his head down, texting, and doesn't notice the light has turned green. The driver in the car behind him honks angrily – while illegally talking on a hand-held cellphone.

New Year's Eve advice

State traffic safety officials offer this: "If you have to ask someone if they are OK to drive, you probably already know that they aren't."

Unlicensed driver danger

A Department of Motor Vehicles study finds unlicensed drivers are the most dangerous motorists – nearly three times as likely to cause a fatal crash as legally licensed drivers.

How many unlicensed drivers are there? DMV says it doesn't know. They don't hear about them unless there's a crash or conviction.

The report recommends continuing to impound vehicles.

New I-5 interchange

The Sacramento City Council is expected in January to choose a contractor for the biggest road project in the city in years – the Cosumnes River Boulevard westerly extension and interchange at Interstate 5.

The new road should divert some traffic off Elk Grove and south Sacramento streets.

But it also will create traffic by providing access to an undeveloped area near Freeport for a major new residential and commercial community to be called Delta Shores.

Editor's note: This story was changed Dec. 28 to clarify a DMV report's recommendation to continue to impound vehicles.

Editor's Choice Videos

Join the Discussion

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service