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Michigan police to begin roadside drug testing in 5 counties


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LANSING - Michigan State Police is launching a new program aimed at combating the dangers of drugged driving.

Here's the info from MSP:

Starting next week, in an effort to combat the dangers of drugged driving, five Michigan counties will participate in a one-year oral fluid roadside drug testing pilot program established by the Michigan State Police (MSP). 

The counties include Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties.


The Preliminary Oral Fluid Analysis pilot program was established by Public Acts 242 and 243 of 2016. The pilot program will establish policies for the administration of roadside drug testing to determine whether an individual is operating a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance in violation of Michigan law. The one-year pilot program will begin on Nov. 8, 2017.

Over the last several years, Michigan has seen a steady increase in fatal crashes involving drivers impaired by drugs. In 2016, there were 236 drug-involved traffic fatalities, which is an increase of 32 percent from 179 drug-involved traffic fatalities in 2015.

“Motorists under the influence of drugs pose a risk to themselves and others on the road,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP. “With drugged driving on the rise, law enforcement officers need an effective tool to assist in making these determinations during a traffic stop.”

The pilot counties were chosen based on several criteria, including the number of impaired driving crashes, impaired drivers arrested and trained Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) in the county.

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 will also be involved.

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


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1 hour ago, mibrains said:

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


along with the cost of the penalty and or fines does this include giving up Driving license if you say no i wonder?


They would ticket you and then blood test you. If you refused the blood test then you lose your license. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

It’s not random. It won’t be used at sobriety checkpoints. And the state of Michigan doesn’t want your DNA from it.

Michigan State Police Special First Lt. Jim Flegel says those are the quick answers to concerns he’s heard about a roadside saliva drug test pilot program now underway in five counties, including Berrien.

“All of those are false,” said Flegel.


He said the program is simply about combating an increase in fatal crashes caused by drug-impaired drivers.

But attorney Michael Komorn, of Farmington Hills, Mich., president of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, sees other potential concerns, including the accuracy of the test and “experimental nature” of the program.

He’s afraid law-abiding citizens with normal therapeutic levels of prescription drugs in their systems who are not impaired to drive might be arrested.

And he thinks that could result in a court challenge.

“Until then, we got a bunch of Michigan citizens in these five counties that are going to be guinea pigs to this process,” Komorn said.

But police say their focus is on stopping drug-impaired driving, so only impaired drivers have anything to worry about.

The program

“Unfortunately over the last several years we’ve seen a very large increase of drugged-driving fatal crashes in the state of Michigan,” Flegel said.

In 2016, Michigan saw 236 fatal crashes, a 32 percent rise over 2015, when there were 179.

“There are different things going on in Michigan,” Flegel said. “One is the opioid epidemic. Another is the number of medical marijuana cardholders that could potentially be driving while impaired on marijuana.”

Michigan began permitting the use of medical marijuana under a 2008 law, and in 2016, the state passed laws to create a new commercial distribution system for medical marijuana from cultivation to sales.

Also last year, a law established the "Preliminary Oral Fluid Analysis" pilot program, which is being managed by Michigan State Police with a budget of $150,000.

Michigan’s program is meant to assess the accuracy and reliability of a portable saliva testing device called the Alere DDS2, which can let an officer know in about five minutes whether a driver they suspect is impaired might have drugs in his or her system. It gives a positive or negative reading on the presence of certain drugs, including marijuana and opiates.

That information can help officers understand the driver’s state and reinforce other findings of impairment to establish probable cause for arrest, Flegel said.

Five counties — Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw — were chosen for the pilot program, based on various criteria, including the number of trained drug recognition experts in each county. Only DREs are allowed to administer the roadside test.

Drug recognition experts are officers who have gone through a two-week, intensive course to recognize drug impairment. They also use a 12-step analysis on suspects to assess possible drug impairment.

Berrien County has seven DREs, four at the state police post in Niles, two with the sheriff’s department and one with the Lincoln Township Police Department. They are seven of the 27 DREs in the five pilot counties.

Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit confirmed the sheriff's department has two deputies who have received DRE training assigned to the pilot program. He directed questions and comments about the program to the state police.

Flegel said an officer must have a reason to suspect impairment before stopping a driver and possibly using the test.

Officers are “going to be making valid traffic stops on a person they suspect of impairment and then they will run them through their tests. If there’s impairment that’s found on drugs, the only thing different they’re going to do is ask them to submit to an oral fluid swab for the drug test,” the officer said.

Police will collect data on the accuracy of the test and number of arrests, and report back to the legislature after a year.

If the program works well, Flegel hopes it can be rolled out to more counties and more officers.

Other states or police agencies, such as in California, Colorado and Massachusetts, have piloted oral fluid drug-testing programs, “but it’s not widespread throughout all the states yet,” Flegel said.

The test

Trooper Robert Lindsay of the Michigan State Police post in Niles completed drug recognition expert training in 2016.

Almost every night while on patrol he suspects drivers of impairment. Sometimes they’re just texting, he said. But many times they are drunk, and increasingly he finds they might be affected by drugs.

Lindsay sees the saliva testing as “another tool” he can use to confirm driver impairment.

Ordinarily, if he pulls a motorist over and suspects impairment, he will conduct standardized field sobriety tests and administer a portable breath test. As a drug recognition expert, he’ll assess whether or not he thinks the person might be suffering from a medical condition, like low blood sugar. If he suspects drugs are a factor, he can take the person to the hospital for a blood test and in a controlled environment administer the 12-step drug analysis.

Now he can use the saliva test at the traffic stop before taking the driver to the lab.


Lindsay will place a swab in the driver’s mouth, and the end of the stick turns blue when it’s collected enough saliva for testing.

He inserts the swab into the testing unit and in about five minutes gets a positive or negative reading for the presence of drugs from six different categories. The test does not indicate the level of a potential drug in a driver's saliva. It simply gives a positive or negative reading based on drug concentration cutoff levels set by the manufacturer. The cutoff level, in nanograms per milliliter, is the point under which the test will be negative and at or above which it will be positive.

The driver will still undergo a blood draw for testing as part of the 12-step drug analysis and to double-check the accuracy of the roadside test.

A driver refusing to allow an oral swab can be cited with an infraction and fined $100.

Lindsay will “properly dispose” of the swab he uses for the test.

Lindsay said he’ll seek permission to take a second sample swab, too, which will be sent to a lab in Kalamazoo for testing to help confirm the accuracy of the field test. The second swab is voluntary.

Lindsay said he’s heard people who are medical marijuana patients are worried about being randomly stopped and tested, or being subject to a sobriety checkpoint.

But Michigan doesn’t allow checkpoints, and an officer is looking for drivers who seem impaired, Lindsay said. Just because he might smell a lingering pot odor doesn’t mean a driver would be detained if the person doesn’t show impairment, he said.


Komorn, the attorney, said in his experience the odor of marijuana can lead an officer to further investigate, which now might include using the saliva test.

That could be problematic for a driver who is legally taking prescription medication and is not impaired, he said.

“Once they detect that it’s in your system, then what,” said Komorn. “Are they just going to let you go or are they going to further investigate?”

Komorn said the saliva test has a high error rate, and he called drug recognition expert assessments "subjective," concerns that have been voiced by some other Michigan attorneys as well.

Komorn said he’s not sure what the roadside test enables officers to do that they can’t do now.

“If there’s a justification to arrest (a driver) for probable cause based on the observations and the driving, then they can do that, that’s what the law is right now,” he said. “I don’t know that this test adds anything to it.”

Michigan has a zero tolerance law for THC in a driver’s bloodstream, except medical marijuana patients who are driving may have one nanogram in their bloodstream and must be proved impaired, said Komorn. A “catchall” amendment in the impaired driving statute prohibits driving under the influence of “any substance” that impairs ability to operate a vehicle, he said.

“Nobody should be compelled to take this test until we’ve got some confirmation that it is an accurate test,” Komorn said. “That’s basic fundamental liberty and freedom, that government shouldn’t be able to subject individuals to tests.”



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