Eric Westervelt | Texas Public Radio

Eric Westervelt

Cities in California can no longer tack on exorbitant legal fees to settle minor local code violations, thanks to a new law enacted this week.

The law makes it illegal for cities and counties to charge defendants for the legal costs to investigate, prosecute or appeal a criminal violation of a local ordinance.

For more than 15 years, Oakland's police department has been under federal oversight following a police abuse and racial profiling scandal.

As part of a negotiated settlement in 2003, the city agreed to work toward sweeping police reforms. The Riders Settlement mandated ongoing monitoring of the department, including the collection of data on police stops and an end to discriminatory policing.

But there's mounting frustration that federal oversight and better data collection have not led to real change, despite a massive price tag.

As legalization of recreational and medical marijuana continues to expand, police across the country are more concerned than ever about stoned drivers taking to the nation's roads and freeways, endangering lives.

With few accurate roadside tools to detect pot impairment, police today have to rely largely on field sobriety tests developed to fight drunk driving or old-fashioned observation, which can be foiled with Visine or breath mints.

Alan Hyde is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System. He served in Operation Desert Storm, where he suffered an in-service leg injury. But it's his time with the Central Alabama VA, he says, that has left him more rattled, frustrated and angry.

"It's a toxic environment there," Hyde says. "And I feel sorry for the veterans."

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