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Michigan Police to Begin Testing Intoxicated Drivers Saliva for Drugs

Sep 8th, 2016 DUI Drug Charges

Michigan DUI laws have recently changed, and beginning in September 2016, Michigan drivers who appear to be driving under the influence of a drug other than alcohol may be required to submit to a preliminary roadside drug test.  This preliminary test will be in the form of a saliva test.

The reason for this change in the law is that for many years law enforcement has claimed that people drive under the influence of drugs 7 times more often than alcohol. They also claim that the number of fatal car accidents caused by drivers under the influence of drugs has increased 5% year after year.  One of the problems law enforcement has faced relative to drugged driving cases is that they lacked a reliable inexpensive roadside test for drugs.  That apparently has changed with various saliva drug tests recently coming to market.

In consideration of this newly available saliva test, Michigan has passed a couple new laws to allow it’s use by Michigan police.  Thus, on June 23rd, two separate Public Acts were signed by Gov. Snyder, both regarding a pilot program that aims to test the use of saliva testing to screen potential drugged drivers on the road side.[i]  Both of these acts will take effect on September 22nd and are codified under MCL 257.62a, 257.625r, 257.625s, and 257.625t.

As might be expected, saliva testing for drugs is highly susceptible to contamination and misinterpretation. Oral fluid tests, such as the saliva drug test being used in Michigan, are most useful in detection of recent drug use. Drugs and metabolites can generally be detected for a period of several hours to several days following drug exposure. Drug concentrations in oral fluid are generally related to content in blood, but also may be present as residual drug in the oral cavity.[ii] Interpretation of biological tests for drugs of abuse will always be limited by available scientific evidence.[iii]

These new acts pave the way for the introduction of saliva tests into evidence, and also provide new, modified or expanded definitions for things like “standardized field sobriety testing” and “Drug Recognition Experts.”

[i] 2016 PA 242 and 243.

[ii] Cone, Huesis, Interpretation of Oral Fluid Tests for Drugs of Abuse, Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 March; 1098: 51–103. doi:10.1196/annals.1384.037.

[iii] Id.