Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

State to consider roadside drug testing policy

Police officers who suspect a driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol already have several roadside testing options. Police can administer both field and breath tests under certain circumstances when they stop a driver, and the legislature has approved bills that might allow officers to conduct similar testing for drugs in the future.

The plan is awaiting feedback from the governor, but it would involve a pilot program that takes place in five counties for one year. The program would let trained officers use a field kit to immediately test the saliva of an individual for marijuana use.

According to reports, training would be required before officers could begin working with these new tools. This is because officers aren't necessarily trained to identify someone who might be driving under the influence of marijuana. Officers today concentrate more on identifying drivers that might be driving drunk.

What does this mean for criminal drug charges? It could mean an increase in the number of charges field, since officers will be able to conduct tests during stops if the circumstances warrant it. It could also create new criminal defense challenges for those charged with driving under the influence as the results of such tests would likely be faster than traditional crime lab results.

At the same time, it also opens the door for the types of criminal defenses used in DWI cases. If law enforcement officers don't follow proper protocol or are not properly trained, a criminal law attorney could leverage that information to help his or her client fight the charges. While this isn't yet a law or an active program, it could become part of drug law in the future.

Source: ClickonDetroit.com, "Roadside drug testing may come to Michigan," Sierra Pedraja, Associated Press, June 11, 2016

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