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.