The pilot program to test Michigan drivers for a bevy of illegal drugs has been expanded to all Michigan counties, as of Tuesday, Oct. 1, according to a Michigan State Police news release.
This means there is at least one participating police department in every county where a drug recognition expert (DRE) is employed, due to the recommendation from the Oral
Fluid Roadside Analysis Pilot Program Committee.
This committee oversaw a one-year test program in five Michigan counties and decided that while the information gathered was valuable, the sample size was not large enough.
According to the MSP, the additional departments will help determine if the program is a useful tool for law enforcement.
These oral fluid (cheek swab) tests will detect the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis (delta 9 THC), cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates.
The Grand Blanc Township Police Department (GBTPD) is the closest participating department to the tri-county area, which is located directly north of both Holly and Fenton townships.
Lt. Bill Renye of the GBTPD said they have three DREs, the most in the county. He said there have been no arrests or tests under the program in the first week.
Renye said that these tests are administered after impairment is detected in the driver. The officer will conduct standard field sobriety tests and a preliminary breathalyzer test (PBT) if the person appears to be impaired. If the PBT is negative, the DRE will administer an oral fluid test, which will give on-site results.
Some states have a THC level standard similar to a blood alcohol test, but Michigan does not. Renye said someone with marijuana in their system will only be tested if they failed field sobriety tests.
Renye can see the usefulness in such tests, but said it’s more about the officer using all their senses to evaluate a motorist. “I think the trained officer is going to make the roads safer than this equipment,” he said. “Just because you have a drug positive person doesn’t mean that they’re impaired.”
Police agencies in Bay City, Auburn Hills, Ann Arbor, Bloomfield Hills and 79 other agencies also are participating.
Fenton Police Chief Jason Slater said his department has seen an increase in drugs that the program is testing. He said Fenton officers also are on the lookout for impaired driving for which they administer field sobriety tests.
He said they also test for various substances that could impair driving. His department has one DRE on staff. “Some prescription medications will interfere with a person’s ability to operate a vehicle,” Slater said. “If you are taking prescription medication or anything else that prevents you from safely operating a vehicle, please do not drive.”
More on the program
Michigan Public Acts 242 and 243 of 2016 established the pilot program to allow trained officers to test drivers “with reasonable cause” with a saliva test, search their vehicle and arrest them based on the test results. Refusing a test is a civil infraction.
The increase in drug-related fatal crashes was the driving factor for the program. The MSP reported 247 drug-involved fatalities in 2018.
According to the pilot program’s February analysis of the initial test, blood is the best fluid for testing, but saliva is ideal for finding a sample to detect recent drug use.
The initial program yielded 89 arrests, with 83 of those testing positive. There were four instances where drivers tested negative for all substances, leading to a release. Cannabis was the most frequent positive result.