Michigan State Police to begin roadside drug testing tomorrow

Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) will be trained in each county.

Michigan State Police began a pilot program on Wednesday that allows state troopers to orally drug test drivers on the side of the road during traffic stops.

The Preliminary Oral Fluid Analysis pilot program is set to last for at least one year in the following counties: Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw. These counties were selected based on the number of impaired driving crashes in the area.

This program was established by Michigan State Police (MSP) under Public Acts 242 and 243 of 2016. The pilot program cost $150,000, covered by a legislative appropriation.

Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), with specialized training in the signs of drug impairment, will carry handheld devices to test for the presence of drugs in drivers’ saliva, according to MLive.

The Alere DDS2 oral fluid test will require the state trooper to take oral fluid samples from the driver with a mouth swab. This mouth swab will them detect drugs in the driver’s system immediately after use, according to The Detroit News.

After processing the saliva sample, the trooper will conduct a 12-step drug evaluation. These steps were not detailed in the MSP press release.

The oral roadside drug tests will be targeting amphetamine, benzodiazepines, marijuana/cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, and opiates.

State troopers will be able to more effectively measure threshold levels of illegal substances roadside, rather than apprehending a driver and later administering a drug test using blood. Similarly, state troopers will continue to take blood draws as part of standard procedure in addition to saliva tests.

If a driver is pulled over and is asked to submit to a drug test but refuses, the state trooper will take the refusal to comply as a civil infraction.

“In 2016, there were 236 drug-involved traffic fatalities, which is an increase of 32 percent from 179 drug-involved traffic fatalities in 2015,” according to Michigan State Police (MSP).

“Motorists under the influence of drugs pose a risk to themselves and others on the road,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP. “With drugged driving on the rise, law enforcement officers need an effective tool to assist in making these determinations during a traffic stop.”

A driver must be suspected of impaired driving in order to lawfully be subject to an oral fluid test. Drivers will not be subject to saliva tests at sobriety checkpoints or roadblocks because saliva tests are not yet legal Michigan.

First Lt. Jim Flegel said, “They’re not going to be randomly pulling people over, they have to have a valid reason. They’re going to be looking for things like weaving in their lane, driving too fast, driving too slow, not using your turn signals — indicators that would indicate that somebody’s driving while impaired.”

Once a driver is pulled over, there must be probable cause established prior to administering the oral drug test. The test will not be able to measure the level of intoxication, only the presence of a drug substance.

Critics of roadside drug testing

Attorney Neil Rockind, of Rockind Law in Bloomfiled Hills, has been a vocal critic of roadside drug testing since the issue was still being debated in the legislature, according to MLive.

“The legal system and law enforcement wants [roadside drug testing] to be fast and perfect,” Rockind commented. “Science is not fast. Developing scientific techniques and perfecting those techniques typically takes years and years, and science is never perfect.”

Rockind claims to be trained as a Drug Recognition Experts, and critiques that the training process is also flawed. He states, “What works in a lab doesn’t work in court.”

On the contrary, the results of a preliminary oral fluid analysis are admissible in court in very limited circumstances, similar to a PBT, according to MSP spokeswoman Shanon Banner.

Arrests will not be made solely on the results of oral fluid tests, and current procedures and policies for impaired driving will not change due to the pilot program.

Banner explains saying, “The statute allows that upon conclusion of the one-year pilot program, the MSP may, subject to receiving funding from the legislature, establish additional pilot programs for one year in eligible counties not included among the five counties initially selected.”

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