New blood warrant application created for marijuana DUIs

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by ALISON MORROW / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @AlisonMorrowTV

KING5.com

Posted on July 1, 2014 at 7:02 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 6 at 10:15 PM

Law enforcement already reports an increase in DUI detainments due to marijuana in Washington after the legalization of recreational use.

That’s created a challenge they don’t face with alcohol: obtaining warrants for blood draws which can take up to 4 hours.

"Marijuana dissipates in about 90 min from the blood so 3-4 hours later we're not getting good evidence," explained Seattle Police Det. Chris Leyba.

Currently, an officer manually fills out a form that he or she may have created. Then, the officer calls a judge, often in the middle of the night, and reads probably cause over the phone or travels to the judge’s home.

Then, the judge chooses whether to authorize the warrant which the officer has to file.

"We're starting to see those people on the roads, impaired by marijuana, which means we're going to have much more search warrants to complete in the next couple years," Det. Leyba said.

The time constraints are only compounded by a rise in arrests expected with recreational pot.

"The end result would likely be more defendants released without a conviction,” said Judge Scott Bergstedt.

That concerned Bergstedt and others enough that they’re developing an electronic blood warrant system.

It’s the first of its kind in the country.

"Pull up this website and enter all the relevant data. It's going to populate in the form and send directly to the judge," explained Courtney Popp.

A prosecutor with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, Popp says the system will give her peers the evidence they need for convictions.

The online application will send uniform real-time data between officers, judges and prosecutors.
It should speed up the original 4 hours to just 30 minutes.

The application is named “Elias” after the 10-day old baby who was struck by a drunk driver in Seattle last year. His grandparents died. The accident left him and his mother permanently injured.

"I want to see the best evidence out there to protect victims like Elias," Det. Leyba said. "It’s not a game. People get hurt. People get killed. Law enforcement will have the tools to combat that in the future."
 

The system "Elias" will go through a pilot stage this fall and roll-out officially next year.

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