Los Angeles Criminal Defense Specialist Bob Wilson is Critical of New California DUI Law

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DUI defense attorney Robert J. Wilson is critical of the recent adjustments to the California law concerning drinking and driving. He believes AB 2020 is just the latest example of the state trying to deny rights that are guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Attorney Robert J. Wilson

the blood test is no more reliable than the urine test when it comes to drug testing

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Los Angeles Attorney Bob Wilson of the law firm Hutton & Wilson has been a criminal defense attorney and certified criminal defense specialist in California for decades. After defending the rights of thousands of people in the most serious DUI cases throughout Southern California, Wilson is particularly suited to critique the latest developments related to DUI law in California. In short, Wilson believes that AB 2020 is just the latest example of the state trying to deny rights that are guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Last year, Sacramento proposed and Governor Brown approved AB 2020. The law went into effect in January of this year. Its impact may be difficult to determine since it has only been in place for three months. But the changes it brings may be significant. Before this law was enacted, a person who was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or the combined influence of drugs and alcohol had a choice of whether to have drug levels tested by blood or urine. With AB 2020, the legislature sought to remove the option. Sacramento has now mandated the far more invasive test to determine the presence of drugs in the DUI suspect's bloodstream.

The summary of the bill states "The purpose of this bill is to remove the option of providing urine samples, and mandate blood tests, for determining the level of drug intoxication when a person is accused of driving under the influence of drugs" (AB2020). Though the bill has become law, it has met some opposition and continues to be assailed by critics. After years of allowing a blood or urine test, some critics ask, why has the state deemed the old system inadequate?

9th District representative Richard Pan, who is also one of the bill's authors, says "by ensuring that prosecution is based on more accurate test results, AB 2020 increases fairness and efficiency in our criminal justice system” (California State Assembly Democratic Caucus). The urine test, some claim, is less reliable than the blood test for drug test. In 1998, the urine test was removed as an option for drivers suspected of being drunk behind the wheel. But suspected drunk drivers still have breath or blood tests as an option. Drivers suspected of drug intoxication have had their options revoked.

Bob Wilson says, "the state is trying to tie the hands of attorneys who believe all suspects have constitutional rights that must be defended. By insisting on a blood test, this further erodes constitutional protections. Searching the inside of someone's body requires special justification."

Wilson's sentiment is similar to the position of at least two organizations that oppose the law and that formally opposed the bill when it was introduced: the California Public Defenders Association and the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. Bob Wilson and Richard Hutton both serve on the Board of Governors for the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

The California Public Defenders Association is on record as saying "this is unnecessary because both scientific literature and several published court decisions have repeatedly and uniformly held that properly conducted and timely urine tests can produce forensically reliable measurement of virtually all drugs in a test subjects system" (Bill Analysis). Unlike alcohol, urine tests for drugs are highly accurate, they contend. The critics of AB 2020 also argue that blood tests expose the suspect to many unnecessary medical risks.

"Regardless of what prosecutors, legislators and law enforcement officers may believe, the blood test is no more reliable than the urine test when it comes to drug testing. At Hutton & Wilson, we typically have our clients' blood samples independently analyzed and evaluated by top research labs. We did this before AB 2020 and we will continue to do so. We will also continue to aggressively defend our clients' rights," Wilson continues. "It's just a shame that so many more citizens will be subjected to an unnecessary invasion of their dignity through an unneeded blood test. Legislators may believe they are making conviction easier but they are simply creating unnecessary pain and risk for no logical reason."

Despite Wilsons and other defense attorneys' protestations, the law is in place. For clients turning to Hutton & Wilson, the law may have little impact since these attorneys are so deeply experienced and have seen countless changes to the law over many years. "The changes we have seen have had no effect on the quality of representation our clients receive. AB 2020 won't either," Wilson states reassuringly. But what about people arrested who do not reach out to experienced defense attorneys like Hutton & Wilson? Their fate may be more difficult to predict.

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