With approximately 200,000 people now in Arizona’s medical marijuana program, there is concern among law enforcement agencies across the state that a growing number of people might be driving under the influence of marijuana.

We all know that Mesa police and officers across the state use breath and blood tests to determine if a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds Arizona’s legal limit of .08 percent. There are news reports that researchers have developed a device to enable law enforcement agencies to determine if drivers are high on weed while behind the wheel.

As you regular readers of our Mesa criminal defense blog know, the punishments for DUI-drugs are the same as for those who are convicted of drunk driving.

USA Today reports that the new Breathalyzer-like device being tested in parts of Arizona and Nevada is the Dräger DrugTest 5000. The machine analyzes a mouth swab from the driver to try to determine if he or she has consumed marijuana. The device can also reportedly detect the presence in the bloodstream of opiates, methamphetamine, amphetamines, cocaine, methadone and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, etc.), though it cannot detect the amount of the substances in the person’s system.

The newspaper also states that some police agencies in California using field sobriety test for people suspected of drugged driving. The tests are identical to those used for suspected drunk drivers – roadside evaluations of physical coordination and mental competence.

Because Arizona has some of the harshest penalties in the nation, those charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol should decline to speak to prosecutors until they have spoken with an attorney experienced in DUI defense.