Issues with Michigan’s Roadside Drug Testing Program
First introduced in late 2017, Michigan’s roadside drug testing program uses saliva to detect the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis (delta 9 THC), cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates.
However, there are some notable faults with Michigan’s roadside drug testing program, which can result in unfair arrests and subsequent convictions.
What is Roadside Drug Testing?
Roadside Drug Testing is similar to the breath test, which all are familiar with that test for alcohol intoxication.
The Oral Fluid Test tests for the presence of controlled substances in a driver.
Roadside drug testing is a natural progression in policing necessitated, primarily, by the legalization of marijuana, and the real or perceived increase in drivers impaired by controlled substances on Michigan roads.
How Does Michigan’s Roadside Drug Testing Program Work?
A number of police officers have been trained as Drug Recognition Experts (DRE).
An officer makes a traffic stop based on some factor such as speeding, failure to signal, etc.
The office observes some indication of impairment, or evidence of drug use. i.e. smell of marijuana (the favorite, because it’s hard to disprove later through video and audio evidence), visible drug paraphernalia, or the typical signs of impairment such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, etc.
However, a negative test does not translate in to innocence.
An officer may still believe you are impaired by a substance the Alere device doesn’t test for.
Issues with the POFT
Roadside drug testing only shows the presence of drugs in the system, not a level of impairment.
Again, in comparison to alcohol test, there have been years of studies done on what level of alcohol causes impairment, thus resulting in the .08 level being adopted as an illegal level of alcohol for driving.
Alcohol is metabolized in a predictable way, so it’s possible to tell if someone ingested alcohol in close proximity to operating a vehicle.
But there aren’t enough studies regarding the drugs tested by the Alere device to correlate specific drug levels to a level of driving impairment.
THC for instance, although present in the saliva, doesn’t indicate when the THC was ingested with any certainty.
There’s no accepted level of THC that indicates driving impairment.
There’s also no test for acute drug intoxication, since many substances remain in the blood for days after use.
Michael Norman is a trial attorney practicing both civil and criminal litigation. Over the last 16 years, he has handled hundreds of cases; collecting millions of dollars for civil plaintiffs and multiple not-guilty verdicts for criminal defendants. He received his BA from Clark Atlanta University in 1998 in Sociology and Criminal Justice. He earned his JD from Georgia State University in 2004, where he served as president of the Black Law Student Association 2003. Michael is admitted to practice law in Michigan, the state of Georgia, federal courts and the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Michael was born and raised in the City of Detroit. He served in the Marine Corps after high school until he was discharged in Georgia, where he settled and attended both undergraduate and law school. After interning with the Department of Justice, he has continuously represented criminal defendants and civil plaintiffs in Michigan and Georgia courts. Michael was recognized by the State Bar of Georgia Committee on Professionalism in 2007. He returned permanently to Michigan in 2013 and continues to represent clients in both criminal and civil cases.
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