Roadside Drug Testing in Michigan To Begin Later This Year?


Earlier this year, a bill to bring roadside drug testing to Michigan passed both the House and the Senate, and was signed into law by Governor Snyder. But before police can begin implementing any new drug tests into their roadside sobriety testing, a experimental program must be run to determine whether or not the testing will be effective and accurate. That job has been given to the Michigan State Police.

The new pilot program will run for one full year, during which time specially trained officers will administer roadside tests in order to determine if the driver in question has ingested any drugs before getting behind the wheel. According to the pilot regulations, all roadside stops will be conducted by officers going about their duties. However, if an officer pulls someone over for impaired driving, whom they believe may be under the influence of a narcotic or other drug, a trained Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) will be called to the scene. We have written before about these so called Drug Recognition Experts.


The DRE will conduct the roadside drug test which is a saliva swab collected from the subject’s mouth. Only MSP officers trained as DRE’s will conduct the tests during the pilot program. Saliva swab tests have the benefit of being inexpensive and unlike urine samples, which cannot be conducted on the side of the road, they measure the ‘parent compound’ present in a drug, which is present when a substance is already in a person’s blood stream. Because the specifics of the saliva drug test have not been made public, it is not known whether those tests will be more or less accurate than the cheap dipstick tests that are often used by commercial testing facilities to do quick urine screens.


The pilot will be conducted in five counties around Michigan. The five counties will be chosen by the Michigan State Police from areas with the highest number of drug-related arrests and impaired driving accidents. In addition, in order for a county to be selected, they must already have trained Drug Recognition Experts in the area. According to the Office of Highway Safety Planning, Michigan currently has 99 Certified Drug Recognition Experts in 37 counties across the state. MSP spokeswoman Shanon Banner says that the MSP expects to have the list finalized by the end of the summer.


The pilot will be added to the already existing 12 step program that MSP’s DREs use to determine whether or not someone is under the influence of drugs. The 12 steps DREs use to determine whether or not a person is under the influence of drugs include taking a person’s vital signs repeatedly over a period of time, checking their eyes to see if their pupils are pin points or dilated, observations of speech patterns and behavior and muscle tone checks.


Several people, however, have spoken out against this pilot program, citing concerns regarding invasion of privacy and the fact that testing for drugs is considerably more complex than testing for alcohol. As drunk driving defense attorneys, we are just as curious as everyone else to see how this pilot program pans out, and whether or not the roadside testing of controlled substances becomes an accurate and viable option for Michigan’s law enforcement in the future. We will keep you updated as the pilot progresses.


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