The proposal came about after Gov. Rick Snyder signed Senate Bill 207, which permits officers who have obtained the necessary specialized training to administer a saliva test to motorists suspected of driving under the influence of drugs. The officers may then make a warrantless arrest based upon the test’s outcome.
How Could This Affect Motorists?
In addition to Senate Bill 207, Snyder also approved Senate Bill 434, which permits the state police to establish a one-year pilot program to fine-tune the testing program for up to five counties within the state.
According to Shanon Banner, manager of the Michigan State Police public affairs section, this program will “establish policies in the area of roadside drug analysis, as well as make a determination of the accuracy and reliability of the tests.”
As of yet, the counties included in the program have not been determined. They are scheduled to be selected by officials in the coming weeks, with the testing slated to begin later this year. “The five counties will be determined based on a number of criteria including: the number of impaired driving crashes, the number of impaired drivers arrested, and the number of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) trained in the county,” said Banner.
The state police are to submit a report to the Legislature’s Judicial and Criminal Justice Committees on the effectiveness of the experimental program within 90 days of its conclusion. If deemed a success, the program could eventually expand to all counties in Michigan.
Similar to a roadside blood alcohol content test, suspects who refuse to take the saliva test would be issued a civil infraction.
How Did the Law Come About?
The initiative for the testing came about after it was determined that the driver of a vehicle responsible for the fatal traffic accident that claimed the lives motorists Thomas and Barbara Swift in 2013 was, at the time of the crash, under the influence of drugs. The couple’s son, Brian Swift, told lawmakers that the bill is aimed at “stopping people who get behind the wheel of a vehicle and choose to put others’ lives at risk.”
Attorneys, however, have raised concerns about the law and scope of the proposed testing program. Questions include whether the saliva test process will be reliable, or if the results would be determined admissible in court as the saliva test program is in its own words, aimed at determining the “accuracy and reliability” of the tests themselves. Secondly, the saliva test appears to target drivers impaired by controlled substances such as cocaine or marijuana, but not prescription drugs, which can be every bit as dangerous to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of.
We have a feeling this law will prove controversial, stirring passion on both sides of the issue. I will be sure to keep you posted on any news and updates with regard to the topic.
The Michigan State Police will soon begin piloting a roadside drug-testing program.