By City News Service
Instant drug tests will be performed at some DUI checkpoints during the New Year holiday thanks to a half-million dollar federal grant awarded to the city of Los Angeles to aid prosecution of people who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, City Attorney Mike Feuer said Friday.
The $520,790 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grant was distributed to Feuer's office by the state Office of Traffic Safety. This is the second year the city is receiving the grant, which pays for the salaries of two attorneys dedicated to prosecuting DUI cases.
With this year's grant, the city attorney's office will be able to expand its use of the Drager 5000, a portable, coffee-machine-sized device that is capable of analyzing a swab of saliva from a suspected DUI driver and within 10 minutes, spit out a report on the presence of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, opiates and other substances.
A second saliva sample will be stored in a vial, bagged and taken to a private lab to be tested for the specific drug that was detected by the machine.
The grant will pay for expert testimony to allow this drug test evidence to be used in court, and the print-out from the drug-testing machine will be included with the files given to city attorneys.
Such tests, which have so far been performed on about 50 people as part of a pilot program, are voluntary, city attorneys said today.
The grant will also pay for a phlebotomist to be at checkpoints to take blood samples from suspected DUI drivers.
In addition to announcing the grant, Feuer also warned holiday revelers against getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
"If you drink or take drugs, don't drive," Feuer said. "Our office is aggressively enforcing impaired driving laws and implementing innovative programs to save lives."
His office had a 99 percent success rate in prosecuting about 12,000 DUI cases filed in 2013, he said, and they plan to use to the additional evidence from the checkpoint drug testing in their cases.
The city attorney's office filed 577 DUI cases during last year's two- week holiday season alone. Injuries and deaths related to alcohol are 86 percent higher around the holidays than during the rest of the year, according to an analysis by the Automobile Club of Southern California.