Michigan House OK’s Drugged Driving Tests
The Michigan House of Representatives recently passed two bills, 5383 and 5385, on drugged driving. The bills aim to bring the state’s drugged driving law and penalties in line with existing drunk driving law. While the law has long prohibited drugged driving, the new legislation provides law enforcement officials with additional tools to keep drugged drivers off the road. It also increases the penalties for those convicted of drugged driving.
Both the Michigan State Police and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan testified in favor of updating the existing laws, which would now expand an officer’s ability to identify a drugged driver, and to enforce the law.
According to St. Clair County State Representative Dan Lauwers, who introduced the legislation, “We’re really bringing the consequences for driving under the influence of drugs to be on par with the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol.” He also said that incidents of people driving while under the influence of drugs are about as common as drunk driving, but the courts haven’t been treating the crime in the same way.
Under the new legislation, a person convicted of drugged driving will have their name entered into a statewide law enforcement database that will be available to police officers during traffic stops. Additionally, officers can now conduct Breathalyzer tests and require a driver to perform roadside sobriety tests if they are suspected of drugged driving.
Drivers who fail, or refuse to undergo the chemical tests, would be at risk for having their licenses confiscated and may be issued a temporary permit pending a conviction. Additionally, they would receive a conditional bond, which only allows a person release from jail under a strict set of parameters that limit certain activities, in the same way that a drunk driver could be released on a conditional bond that forbids them to consume any alcohol.
The new law also provides for updated penalties for people convicted of drugged driving. For example, under certain circumstances a convicted drugged driver could have their license confiscated or destroyed.
“Drugged drivers are just as dangerous as drunken drivers, but under current law motorists who are high on drugs are able to keep driving with multiple offenses. We’ve approved a common-sense reform that helps protect all motorists by taking these repeat offenders off the streets,” said Lauwers.
But while two bills were passed, a third was left behind in committee. Bill 5384 proposed to allow authorities the ability to conduct roadside mouth swabs, which test saliva for traces of controlled substances like marijuana, heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine.
However, several medical marijuana advocates and civil rights groups spoke out against the proposed legislation, voicing concerns that the technology had not yet been proven in independent testing and may infringe on the rights of legal medical marijuana users.
Lauwers did propose an amended version of Bill 5384 which would have limited the roadside saliva swab testing, suggesting instead that a pilot program be put in place. But the House Judiciary Committee elected not to vote on this particular bill when it advanced the others to the floor. The bills now move to the Senate for consideration.