The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has already trained several hundred law enforcement personnel in handling marijuana DUI cases, via a program funded by an almost $900,000 grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The grant was approved this year to pay for the program which aims to prevent impaired driving and reduce alcohol and drug-related fatalities and injuries. Last year, the office received an $858,000 grant to get the program started.
“With voter approval of Proposition 64, which in November 2016 legalized adult recreational marijuana use in California, law enforcement officials began looking for new and novel ways to address the public safety issues,” said L.A. County District Attorney personnel via their website.
In January, District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the creation of the DUI Training and Prosecution Section (DTAPS) to provide training on effectively prosecuting these cases – with a special focus on driving under the influence of drugs – and to work with law enforcement to increase the number of drug recognition experts in the county.
“We in law enforcement must be prepared to aggressively investigate and prosecute vehicular deaths and injuries caused by impaired drivers,” Lacey said. “It is still a crime for any person to get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs – whether legally obtained or not.”
DTAPS has been tasked with reviewing, and in some instances, prosecuting DUI-drug cases that result in a homicide. In addition, they have been assisting law enforcement personnel and prosecutors in determining whether drugs played a role in serious or fatal traffic collisions and the type and quantity of evidence needed to support a successful prosecution.
Officials have also commissioned program participants to focus on working with police agencies to increase the number of officers who are certified Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) in Los Angeles County. As a result of the extensive training they receive, DREs are in a unique position to articulate the effects of impairment caused by the various drug categories and they are able to determine if someone was impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two, while driving.