PHOENIX - For the past five years, there’s been a steady increase in the number of DUI arrests in Arizona, and more specifically, drugged driving.
So far in 2022, about a thousand drivers in Arizona have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. In 2021, more than 8,000 Arizonans were arrested for alleged drugged driving.
On April 4, drivers saw a deadly drugged driving crash. The driver that reportedly caused the wreck killed one person and was allegedly under the influence of fentanyl at the time.
The numbers prove more, and more people are getting behind the wheel after using narcotics.
"The number of DUI drug case arrests – gone from 5-6,000 up to 8,000 plus," explained Alberto Gutier with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. He says drug impairment investigations and arrests take more time – requiring warrants, blood samples, and toxicology testing.
"In order to have a valid prosecution, you have to have real facts from the crime lab and that takes a while," Gutier said.
In Arizona, drug recognition experts and phlebotomists are on call to respond to suspected drugged driving crashes and deaths. Currently, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) is testing new roadside drug screening technology.
"It’s a compact thing – a mouthpiece – the person has a saliva type of testing. It provides a pretty good idea of certain drugs," Gutier said.
Arizona has a zero-tolerance statute for illegal drugs. Unlike alcohol, there is no legal limit. If any amount of illegal drugs or their metabolite is found in your system, you could face DUI charges.
‘Just before his death, he beat stage 4 cancer’
According to police, a 65-year-old man, Hajric Mirsad, who died in a crash last year was a victim of drugged driving.
It was five months before the DUI suspect, Mark Steven Holmes, was finally arrested. Court documents show he had fentanyl, cocaine, and methadone in his system at the time of the crash.
Holmes is one of nearly 1,000 drivers arrested for drug driving so far, this year alone.
"I don’t know what needs to happen, but something definitely needs to happen because a lot more families are going to be broken just like we are, and they’re going to be hurt," said Jasko Hajric, Mirsad's son. "Just before his death, he beat stage 4 cancer. He was living his life to the fullest. Unfortunately, his life was taken away by a selfish person."