Michigan plans to expand roadside drug testing program

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line associate editor | 3/1/2019

A roadside drug testing program in Michigan is expected to expand statewide this fall.

The Michigan State Police recently released the results of the pilot program, which was conducted from November 2017 to November 2018 in five counties. Michigan lawmakers approved in December an additional $626,000 to expand the program across the state. Shannon Banner, a spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police, confirmed with Land Line that the expansion is expected to begin this fall.

“Expansion of this pilot program will allow a greater number of police departments in Michigan to take advantage of the expertise of participating drug recognition experts to assist with traffic stops and drug-impaired driving investigations,” the Michigan State Police wrote in its recommendation. “Arresting drug-impaired drivers can be expected to mitigate serious injury and fatal traffic crashes throughout Michigan.”

The program allows trained officers to give roadside saliva tests to any drivers suspected of being under the influence of such drugs as marijuana, cocaine and heroin. The pilot program, which uses a mouth swab to obtain the saliva, started in Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties.

From Nov. 8, 2017 until Nov. 8, 2018, 92 saliva roadside drug tests were conducted in those five counties. Eighty-nine drivers were arrested from those drug tests. As of Dec. 20, 2018, 38 drivers had been convicted of 47 charges. Forty-nine cases are pending a final court disposition. One case was dismissed, and one case was not prosecuted.

The testing program was inspired by a 2013 crash when a truck driver ran a red light and struck a vehicle, resulting in the deaths of two people. The truck driver, Harley Davidson Durocher, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after blood tests showed that marijuana was in his system.

Opposition to the program argues that the science isn’t there.

“The science is ridiculous,” Neil Rocking, a criminal defense attorney in Southfield, Mich., told Land Line in 2016. “The science does not support this test. This is a test essentially trying to determine if you have remnants of THC in your system. The problem with it is that THC has an active ingredient, and it has a metabolite. These tests can trigger a positive by the metabolite, which can be in someone’s system for weeks or a month.”

 

 

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