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New Michigan Pilot Program Could Subject Drivers to Roadside Drug Testing

Effective September 22, 2016, the State of Michigan has approved a new pilot program that would enable law enforcement to conduct roadside tests in order to determine if a driver is under the influence of any controlled substances. This new pilot program will be established in five separate counties throughout the State and will last for one year before it is evaluated for effectiveness, and a decision as to whether or not to continue the program will be made. In order for a county to be eligible to participate in the pilot program they must have a law enforcement agency, such as a state police post, a sheriff's department, or municipal police department, where at least one officer who is a certified drug recognition expert is employed. A certified drug recognition expert is a person who is trained and able to identify if a person is under the influence of illicit drugs, in addition to alcohol. The county must also create a written policy and guidelines for the implementation of their procedure, after the state police have created their own administrative rules for the new program.

Though the newly created law for this program is rather vague, and does not state how this new program will actually affect drivers, it is clear that this law will permit officers, in the pilot counties, to instruct drivers to adhere to a roadside saliva drug test. Because the law does not state any of the procedural guidelines for officers, but merely states that each county will have to come up with their own policy, at this point there are no specific precautions or protections afforded to those drivers who do not wish to take the roadside saliva test. Further, this new program leaves open several other questions including, what happens if a driver does not submit to the drug test? Is a patient who is prescribed a controlled substance as a medicine protected from this program? What tests are being used and are they even scientifically accurate?

Due to the lack of information given in the new statute and the ongoing selection of counties, it is hard to determine the effect this new pilot program will have on drivers. According to Michigan State Police Spokeswoman, Shanon Banner, a driver would be subject to a civil infraction if they refused the roadside saliva test. The Michigan State Police have also said that there will not be random traffic stops, nor traffic checkpoints that would test drivers for controlled substance use. However, if a driver is suspected of impaired driving, it appears they would be subjected to both roadside saliva testing and the current standards for roadside alcohol impairment tests.

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