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Roadside drug testing to start

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Sheriff’s Office, Escanaba Department of Public Safety, Gogebic County Sheriff’s Office, Menominee Police Department and Michigan State Police are among Michigan law enforcement agencies which, beginning Oct. 1, are participating in the expansion of the Michigan State Police Oral Fluid Roadside Analysis Pilot Program.

Pursuant to Public Act 242 and 243 of 2016, the MSP conducted a one-year Oral Fluid Roadside Analysis Pilot program, which concluded in November 2018, in five counties — Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw. The initial pilot provided valuable data on the performance of the oral fluid test instrument when coupled with law enforcement-observed driver behavior and standardized field sobriety tests, but the overall sample size was too small to draw any definitive conclusions on the tool’s usefulness for law enforcement, a press release from the MSP states.

In their February report, the Oral Fluid Roadside Analysis Pilot Program Committee recommended expansion of the pilot for an additional year to include all drug recognition experts, or DREs, in the state to allow a greater number of police departments to participate and to increase the sample size.

“This additional, statewide data will help to determine the usefulness of this tool for law enforcement, as we work to get drug-impaired drivers off Michigan’s roads,” said Lt. Col. Richard Arnold, commander of MSP’s Field Operations Bureau. “Roadside oral fluid testing continues to show promise and by expanding this pilot, we’ll have a larger body of results by which to determine the tool’s effectiveness.”

Under the pilot program, a DRE may require a person to submit to a preliminary oral fluid analysis to detect the presence of a controlled substance in the person’s body if they suspect the driver is impaired by drugs. The preliminary oral fluid analysis will be conducted by a DRE on the person’s oral fluid, obtained by mouth swab, and will be administered along with the drug recognition 12-step evaluation currently used by DREs.

The oral fluid test instrument tests for the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis (delta 9 THC), cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates.

Refusal to submit to a preliminary oral fluid analysis upon lawful demand of a police officer is a civil infraction.

DREs are police officers who have received highly specified training that allows them to identify drivers impaired by drugs. Although the pilot program is being organized and managed by the MSP, DREs employed by county, township and municipal police agencies are also involved.

Over the last several years, authorities said Michigan has seen a steady increase in fatal crashes involving drivers impaired by drugs. In 2018, there were 247 drug-involved traffic fatalities, according to the press release.