Michigan roadside drug testing months away

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, July 19, 2016

In the wake of a fatal wreck, a new Michigan law creates a one-year pilot program to allow specially trained officers to give saliva tests to drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs such as marijuana, heroin and cocaine.

The state already uses a 12-step evaluation program to determine whether drivers are under the influence.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a bill permitting Michigan State Police troopers in certain counties to also test suspected drugged drivers with a preliminary oral fluid test. Specifically, the saliva analysis will be carried out by trained “drug recognition experts” along with the 12-step evaluation program.

“This is commonsense legislation that empowers our law enforcement officials to conduct roadside tests for drugs so we can help make Michigan’s roads safer,” Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, said in prepared remarks.

The new law was spurred by a 2013 crash in Gladstone where the driver of a logging truck ran a red light and struck a passenger vehicle, resulting in the deaths of a 73-year-old couple. Truck driver Harley Davidson Durocher had his blood drawn at a hospital after the wreck, which showed the presence of marijuana in his system.

Durocher, of Gwinn, Mich., was found guilty of multiple charges including operating while intoxicated causing death. He was sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison.

State Police are in the process of selecting five counties for the pilot program. Participating counties will be chosen based on the number of impaired driving crashes, resulting arrests, and the number of trained officers in the county.

The program is expected to begin later this year.

Any motorist who refuses an oral fluid test via a swab would face a civil infraction.

Commercial drivers refusing a test would be placed out of service for 24 hours. They would also face misdemeanor charges, which are punishable by up to 93 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $100.

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