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  1. ZenobiaSky
    18857.jpg A growing percentage of arrests statewide for driving under the influence are related to prescription and illicit drugs, not alcohol, authorities say.

    Overall DUI arrests are down, but authorities attribute the surge in DUI drug arrests to a combination of better enforcement and the continuing fallout from the prescription-drug epidemic.

    Arizona has nearly 500 officers trained to recognize the symptoms of drug impairment, compared with only a few two decades ago.

    “I think the availability of prescription drugs in great quantities has created this,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “This has created a prescription-drug epidemic.”

    He said prescription painkillers and synthetic drugs such as “spice” are common culprits.

    Gilbert police Sgt. Jim Lahti, who supervises the night traffic squad, said he remembers meeting two officers who were the only drug-recognition officers in the state 22 years ago when he was police recruit.

    Officers would suspect someone was impaired by a substance other than alcohol but were unable to pinpoint it because of a lack of training, he said.

    “We have officers that are better trained now in recognizing drug impairment,” Lahti said. “The other factor is that there are more people driving who are impaired by drugs.”

    While the number of DUI arrests dropped more than 13 percent in 2012 from 2011, the number of DUI drug arrests increased 12 percent, according to Governor’s Office of Highway Safety statistics.

    The percentage of DUI arrests that were drug-related increased to 14 percent in 2012 from 11 percent a year earlier.

    Even more dramatic is the increase in drug-related DUI arrests over a longer period, with the number rising 18-fold from 2003 to 2012.

    The trend was spotlighted during the holiday season by the annual East Valley DUI Task Force.

    Mesa officers working with other agencies throughout the region made 540 DUI arrests from Nov. 21 to New Year’s Day.

    Of those arrests, 344, or 63percent, were for drug DUIs. Other participating agencies made fewer drug arrests, but nearly one out of three arrests was drug-related.

    The 2012 East Valley Task Force figures further confirm a trend noted in Mesa during the 2011 calendar year, when DUI drug arrests outpaced alcohol arrests for the first time.

    Mesa police Lt. Thomas Intrieri, who supervises the traffic unit, said there has been a 10-year trend toward gradually increasing numbers of DUI drug arrests.

    All Mesa motorcycle officers are drug-recognition officers, trained to recognize symptoms of drug use, he said. Most of them also have 10 or more years of experience enforcing traffic laws.

    “If you are not trained to recognize a problem, how do you know of one?” Intrieri wrote in an e-mail.

    Lahti said officers see a gamut of impairment from a wide range of prescription drugs, along with prescription drugs mixed with alcohol.

    “It’s a wide spectrum,” he said. “You see people using muscle relaxers where they can hardly keep their eyes open, and they want to drive a car.”

    Lahti points out that although alcohol has been legal for years, that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for anyone to drive impaired on any drug, including medical marijuana.

    By Jim Walsh The Republic Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:58 PM


  1. Aminatrix
    Wow, did anyone else notice the progress bar that starts in 2003?

    See how few arrests there were back then? Do you really think people were drinking all that less?

    Hell no.

    Arizona decided to step up enforcement, mostly by increasing the number of officers, but also by teaching stricter enforcement, and also with "training" officers in more ways, giving them an edge by specialized psychological and facial recognition training, that would cost thousands of dollars for any regular citizen to gain equivalent training.

    To me, this feels very prejudicial, almost akin to judging someone by the way they look. It's also very subjective, which means that officers who are "trained" to look for cues suspects make, can make a false ID and harass that individual further than legally permitted because of "probable cause" that the officer thinks someone is high.

    No we all know that very often people are driving high that shouldn't be, but this just presses the privacy barrier a little too much, let's say you are in heavy pain from a back injury, and you take prescription medicine, as directed, and you are legally within your right to drive because you know how it affects you and you aren't putting anyone at risk. (The problem obviously is people taking too much or doing it without knowing how it will affect you and they fall asleep or elsewise).

    The cop sees your eyes may be a bit red, and then forces a search of your person and vehicle finding something they never legally should have, very often it's "leftovers" from a previous passenger, and you have DUI now.

    Or back up, same story, but you don't take any meds, you just have allergies. The cop sees your eyes, thinks you've taken pills, and now searches you and finds a few hairs or leaves of cannabis that your child left being, or maybe a few loose pills that fell out of a friends (or your own) pocket.

    Now you are going to jail, faced with a DUI, and I would bet that an alarming amount (probably 10% or more) of the drug arrests were not even driving under the influence, but some drugs were found after a legal[?] search of the vehicle.
  2. PalomoJames7420
    Therr should be some sort of legal limit and testing if that person looks suspicous. Issuing dui arrests based on appearance sounds presumptuous. Some people may have some serious pain or nausea that impairs their life, requiring the use of medical cannabis. Like previous poster mentioned, if people know how drug affects them and they can drive and it should not be a problem.
  3. runnerupbeautyqueen
    Arizona is the strictest state when it comes to DUIs. Every AA meeting Ive ever been to someone pointed out that after moving to and getting a DUI in AZ is when they got sober.

    Something this article doesnt really mention is that Phoenix is a huge sprawling city. Whereas NYC was built up, Phoenix was built out. Add to that the fact that we have almost no public transportation besides a few buses that stop running at ten and a light rail that just cant take anyone home who doesn't live on campus.

    So people go to bars or parties or whatever and get drunk/high and because of the cities size they cant walk home or afford a cab and since there's no public transport of course you're going to wind up with a bunch of DUIs. Its not that us Phoenicians are drunks or anything, we just have a lot of space between things which gives cops more opportunities to pull people over.
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