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Roadside saliva tests for drugs finally begins to be a reality

Up until now, a driver who was high on cocaine, meth or some form of opiate was more likely to slip past an officer after being pulled over for a traffic violation than one that was drunk -- but that may finally be changing thanks to the invention of a roadside test that uses saliva to test for a number of illicit drugs.

Michigan drivers -- beware! You're the guinea pigs being used for this particular test, known as an Alere DDS2 -- and not everyone is a fan of them. Some defense attorneys are, in fact, vocal critics of the tests, saying that police want the drug equivalent of a breathalyzer that's quick and accurate, and both aren't possible with current technology.

Nevertheless, 26 Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) -- officers with special training designed to help determine when a driver is driving drugged -- in five Michigan counties will be equipped with the oral testing devices. If a regular officer pulls a driver over and suspects drug involvement, he or she will still have to rely on the current methods or call one of the state's DREs to the scene.

The test program will last for a year and is designed to help establish policies regarding roadside testing for controlled substances. Officials insist that arrests won't be made entirely on the basis of the saliva test's results -- but results of the test would be admissible in court or "administrative hearings" with the judge or prosecutor outside of court.

It's also important to note that refusing the oral saliva test is considered a refusal under implied consent laws -- which means that you would be subject to civil penalties (including the automatic suspension of your driver's license). Keep in mind, even if you refuse the oral test, an officer can try to get a judge to issue a warrant for your blood test -- but only if there's sufficient probable cause to believe you are impaired.

Given the complexities of issue and the newness of the pilot program, anyone who is confused about how to handle a request to submit to the saliva testing may want to ask to speak to his or her criminal defense attorney first for advice.

Source: MLive.com, "Roadside drug tests to check for marijuana, cocaine, opiates and more," Brad Devereaux, Nov. 07, 2017

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