Michigan's Roadside Drug-Testing Program Violates Constitutional Rights, Say Advocates
A roadside drug-testing pilot program signed into law at the end of June is unconstitutional and runs the risk of destroying lives, a motorist’s advocacy group says.
Michigan’s “Barbara J. and Thomas J. Swift Law” will see five counties selected for roadside saliva swab tests designed to identify drivers impaired by drugs. The one-year pilot, which became law on June 24, raised the ire of the National Motorists Association, which claims the law oversteps boundaries and could prove inaccurate.
The law is named after a couple killed in a 2013 crash in Escanaba. After a blood test, the tractor trailer’s driver tested positive for marijuana use.
Under the program, drivers pulled over by police or stopped at a checkpoint could undergo a saliva test to check for drugs. The test, implemented by a Drug Recognition Expert, would be in addition to the 12-step drug recognition protocol used by Michigan police. Normally, a driver suspected of being under the influence of drugs would have to have blood drawn.
At the time of signing, Governor Rick Snyder claimed the program “will be used to help determine accuracy and reliability of the tests.”
The liberty-minded NMA takes issue with the test’s accuracy and how Michigan will implement it. In a statement, the organization notes that a Supreme Court ruling allowed breathalyzer tests on the grounds that air cannot belong to a person. Testing for alcohol use is simple, but laying a “Driving Under the Influence of Drugs” charge isn’t as easy. Drawing blood, the go-to way of determining drug impairment, requires a warrant.
Prosecutors normally pursue a DWI or DUI charge, even if drugs are found in the driver’s system.
“For one thing, a good saliva or oral fluid device to test for the presence of key drugs are not yet of evidential quality apparently,” the NMA statement reads. “Also, judges and juries usually don’t understand the behavioral differences between impairments of alcohol or drugs.”
The pilot program aims to bridge the gap and make it easier to identify impairment and lay DUID charges.
Calling saliva swab tests “one of the most invasive methods of drug testing in the country,” the NMA said the test violates the 4th Amendment and contains many unknowns. It notes that the law doesn’t state whether a warrant is needed for the roadside saliva test, nor does it say what will happen if a motorist refuses.
As for the science behind the tests, the group worries about false positives, including those caused by prescription drugs:
“For example, you have ADHD and take Adderall (which has an amphetamine-salt combo) to help you concentrate on driving. If you are forced to take the saliva swab test at a checkpoint because all other drivers are being tested, the test would indicate you have drugs in your system and you are DUID.”
Marijuana and other drugs can stay in a person’s system for 48 hours, the group states, long after the effects of the drug have worn off. That could lead both motorists and law enforcement into bumpy legal territory.
Because of the unknowns, and the apparent constitutional overreach, the NMA calls on Michigan to classify the saliva test on the same level as a blood test.
h/t David Holzman
[Image: Ruin Raider/ Flickr]
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