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A New Type of Breathalyzer

According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association, "All states but Utah define driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent as a crime, and specific laws and penalties vary substantially from state to state. Effective December 30, 2018, Utah's BAC will be set at 0.05 percent."Driving under the influence of alcohol is clearly defined by each state as a crime. But what isn't so clearly defined is driving under the influence of drugs, specifically THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana that gets people high.
Part of the difficulty is determining what constitutes THC levels that impair function. Unlike alcohol, which is measured in parts per thousand, THC is approximately a billion times less concentrated than alcohol and dissolves in fat so it can stay in your body for up to a month after use.
Hound Labs, a California based company, claims it may have cracked the code by developing a breathalyzer that can detect THC levels in a person's breath. Mike Lynn, emergency room trauma physician and CEO of Hound Labs, states "When you find THC in breath, you can be pretty darn sure that somebody smoked pot in the last couple of hours...And we don't want to have people driving during that time period or, frankly, at a work site in a construction zone."
This breathalyzer is used in the same way that a traditional breathalyzer is used. A person breathes into the breathalyzer cartridge, it is then plugged into a base that regulates the temperature of the cartridge and also reads the results. This breathalyzer can actually detect alcohol levels as well. Law enforcement agencies are anxious to find concrete methods to determine impairment on site because current testing measures can take days to provide proof of drugs in the system and officers are forced to do field sobriety tests and rely on observation, which can be subjective.
Is this breathalyzer going to be the breakthrough it claims to be? More research may be required. Most states still need to determine legal guidelines regarding THC levels and impairment. According to NPR, "So far only seven states, including Washington and Montana, have set legal guidelines as to how much THC in the system makes you dangerous behind the wheel. Yet some scientists are skeptical, saying those limits aren't really backed by hard science."
An additional challenge is the breathalyzer can only detect that THC has been used within a certain time frame but it can not determine the amount used. "We need more research to establish the dose-response relationship between THC level and crash risk," says epidemiologist Guohua Li, who directs the Columbia Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention.
In the meantime, a few law enforcement agencies are going to partner with Hound Labs to begin field testing the breathalyzer, but the challenge of the results being admissible in court has several agencies waiting to see the results before jumping on board.
Reducing the number of accidents caused by driving under the influence is the main concern. But accidents do still happen. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident caused by someone driving under the influence, we can help. Contact our office for a FREE consultation.

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