Troopers to expand roadside drug testing program statewide in 2019

Dozens of the roadside drug tests performed during a recent pilot program resulted in false positive or false negative results.

Roadside Drug Testing

Michigan State Police (MSP) have announced that they are planning on expanding a controversial saliva-based roadside drug testing pilot program statewide this year.

Based on the results of a limited roadside drug test pilot program conducted in 2017 and 2018, lawmakers in Michigan have decided to provide additional funding to expand the program statewide in all counties that are interested in participating.

In the next few months, the Michigan State Police are planning on obtaining equipment and providing training to expand the roadside drug testing program across the state. The program expansion is expected to be fully in place by the fall.

In November of 2017, MSP launched the year-long roadside drug testing pilot program in five counties. The pilot program allowed troopers to swab a driver’s mouth in order to collect saliva to detect the presence of drugs without needing to perform a time consuming blood, urine, or hair test. Troopers were able to obtain test results from the mouth swab in about five minutes. The mouth swab was then followed up by a 12 step drug evaluation during which troopers observed a driver’s behavior for signs of impairment.

During this initial pilot program, troopers administered 92 saliva tests. Eighty-three drivers tested postive for drugs during the pilot program and eighty-nine drivers were arrested as a result of the drug test or the subsequent 12 step drug evaluation.

However a large number of the tests were determined to be either false positives or false negatives based on the results of later blood testing. MSP reported that after comparing the roadside test to blood tests, there were six false positives for amphetamines, two false positives for cocaine, one false positive for methamphetamine, and eleven false positives for THC. There were also eight false negative results for benzodiazepines and one false negative reading for opiates.

Grand Rapids-based criminal defense attorney Ed Sternisha opposes the roadside drug testing program because of the risks of false positive results. “Would you want to be one of those people who gets arrested because this machine says you have one of these drugs in your system and the machine was just wrong?” he told WMMT.

MSP believes that the results of the roadside test correspond well with more traditional drug testing methods.

The pilot program resulted in 38 drivers being convicted on 47 charges as of December 2018. Dozens more of the tested drivers are awaiting the final results of their cases in court.

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