Michigan State Police Pilot Program: Roadside Drug Tests To Be Tested In Five Counties

In June, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed Senate Bills 207 and 434 that created a one-year pilot program allowing law enforcement officers who have been trained as Drug Recognition Experts to administer roadside saliva tests to drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs. The roadside drugs tests will be checking for drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.

“The five-county pilot program will be used to help determine accuracy and reliability of the tests,” Gov. Snyder said in a statement about the roadside drug testing legislation known as the Barbara J. and Thomas J. Swift Law.

The law was named after a couple killed in 2013 when a tractor-trailer crashed into their Chevy Malibu in Escanaba, Michigan.

“This has been needed way back when I was a police officer for 31 years,” Senator Jones told news reporters after the Barbara J. and Thomas J. Swift Law was signed by the governor. “You’ve got to have a way to test for drugs, and this is a simple saliva system — it’s a little plastic spoon with a sponge on it, you put it in a test tube and in a few minutes you know if somebody’s on cocaine, heroin, meth or marijuana.”

The roadside drug tests, which test saliva, will accompany the standard 12-step evaluation law enforcement uses to determine whether a driver might be under the influence of drugs.

“It’s using science and technology that is available to us and it should streamline the process,” Special First Lieutenant David Kaiser, PIO for Michigan State Police told an NBC News reporter. “The test drug recognition experts do are everything from taking a blood pressure, looking at your respiration, looking at your pupil sizes to see whether they’re pin-pointed or dilated.”

Many in Michigan are pleased with the new legislation, hoping that it will save lives.

“It might save lives you know you might have someone on heroin smack into a car and kill a four-year-old so better safe than sorry,” Tyson Updike said.

Others, including Rusty Bongard, retired from the Michigan State Police, are calling the pilot program unconstitutional.

“I retired from MSP and I will tell you right now, no one is going to stick anything in my mouth without a warrant expressly defining the rationale for it being necessary based upon some action of mine that raises the level of suspicion to a point any reasonable person would question the action as being the result of illegal drug use,” Bongard wrote on Facebook.

Bongard says the tests should be “considered a violation of all our rights.”

“Some of the concerns were we were going to just start randomly testing people, and that’s not the case,” First Lt. Michael Shaw assured the public, according to a CBS reporter. “There’s still going to be probable cause for a traffic stop — just like it was….This is just an added component to the probable cause portion of it.”

Adam Lee Holkeboer said on Facebook that he is worried that people will be targeted. He also worries about medical marijuana users. In the state of Michigan, the use of marijuana is legal for people licensed and protected under the state’s Medical Marihuana law.

Still, others are concerned that lives could be destroyed by a saliva test that has been shown to sometimes offer false positive results. Michigan attorney Neil Rockind told MLive that accurate science is neither fast nor easy and that the pilot program will make guinea pigs out of the average citizen. Although it has been reported that the results of the roadside tests aren’t accurate enough to hold up in court, the concern is that prosecutors would tell a person with a false positive that they should accept a plea deal, since the test came up positive.

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Additionally, the Senate Fiscal Agency report on the pilot program stated that an officer could arrest the person based entirely on the results of the roadside saliva test and that the results of the analysis would actually be admissible in court, High Times reported.

A ProPublica investigation revealed that when police in Las Vegas looked at drug tests done with field kits, 33 percent were false positives. In Florida, it was discovered that the reason for some false positives in Hillsborough County was even more shocking: The administering officers of the drug tests were simply confused over which color indicated a positive result.

The Michigan State Police are currently deciding which five counties will be participating in the roadside drug test pilot program.

“Counties will be picked based on the number of traffic crashes in these counties, the number of people arrested for drinking or driving under the influence of drugs and also the number of drug recognition experts in each one of these counties,” Special First Lieutenant Kaiser explained of how the five counties in Michigan will be chosen.

[Image via GPDII | Wikipedia | Cropped | Public Domain]