A bill focused on creating a pilot drugged driving testing program here in Michigan is now headed for the Governor’s’ desk for his signature of approval. The bill passed the Senate in January of this year and then the House earlier this month. But what exactly does it mean for Michigan drivers?
According to Senator Tom Casperson, the sponsor of this bill, the point is to allow the state to create a reasonable standard for testing suspected drugged drivers, similar to the system we have in place in Michigan for testing suspected drunk drivers. While Casperson does admit that it could take us a while to get to the point where officers have a truly effective way to test for drugs in a driver’s system, he believes that it is possible.
The bill, if it becomes law, would place the Michigan State Police in charge of the pilot program. The MSP would be required to select five counties around the state in which to conduct the pilot program. Counties are only considered for eligibility is they already have a law enforcement officer in the area who is trained as a certified drug recognition expert.
The drug recognition expert would be summoned to the scene in the event that the arresting officer believes that the suspect may be under the influence of illegal substances, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana or other drugs. The drug recognition expert would then conduct an on-scene mouth swab in order to test for the presence of illegal drugs. These drug recognition experts (DRE) do exist in other states and their accuracy is questionable, to say the least.
If the bill is passed into law, it will be named the “Barbara J. and Thomas J. Swift Law” in honor of the couple killed in 2013 by a driver under the influence of marijuana. The Swifts, both 73-year-olds from Escanaba, died when their Chevy Malibu was struck by a logging truck driven by 26-year-old Harley Davidson Durocher. Durocher was later found to be under the influence of a controlled substance and was sentenced to spend 15 years in prison.
The Swift’s son, Brian Swift, contacted Michigan Senator Casperson in the wake of his parents death hoping to spearhead legislation that would prevent this from happening in the future. In an interview with the media, Swift said that he and his sister were doing this for their parents as well as all of the other victims out there who couldn’t speak up to defend or protect themselves from drugged drivers.
Michigan currently has drug testing procedures in place, but not for use as roadside testing. This pilot program hopes to change that by introducing a way for officers to conduct on-scene testing to determine whether or not a person is under the influence of drugs, and possibly even how much is in their system. If the program is successful it will likely be launched across the state, with roadside drug testing quickly becoming as commonplace as breath testing for the presence of alcohol.