By NYSSA RABINOWITZ
Capital News Service
LANSING – Law enforcement officers may receive a new tool to test drivers suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.
The device would also be allowed to check operators of boats, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles.
Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, has introduced legislation to allow officers to use portable “preliminary chemical breath analysis” tools.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Sgt. Keith Koeman of the Ottawa County Sheriff Marine Patrol. It’s “another tool in the officer’s toolbox that he can use to keep everyone safe.”
The new device is similar to the portable Breathalyzers police already use, said Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, one of the co-sponsors. It analyzes saliva and produces results in 10 minutes.
Breathalyzers measure only the blood alcohol content. These new devices would measure the levels of drugs in a person’s system.
It would “shave police time greatly,” Jones said. Officers would be able to administer the preliminary test on site without needing to wait for a prosecutor to issue a warrant for a blood test that may take months to get results.
Meadows said there hasn’t been a way to legally test drivers and operators on site for any intoxicant other than alcohol.
Meadows said he was unsure whether the drug tests would distinguish between prescribed medications and illegal drugs, but that an appeal process similar to the one in place for Breathalyzer tests would be created for suspects to dispute their test results.
“We don’t want people under the influence, whether by alcohol or drugs,” said Bill Manson, executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile Association in Grand Rapids. “I don’t know of any drug problems when it comes to snowmobiles,” he said, but added that the group’s board of directors wouldn’t oppose the legislation.
Koeman said, “Quite often you get a combination of alcohol and drug abuse.” However, law enforcement officers see only the alcohol violation because they can’t test immediately for the drug use.
Koeman said his only concern is how much it would cost for the initial units to equip all his department’s deputies and boats.
He said the public safety benefit probably outweighs their cost.
Other sponsors of the bill are Reps. Dian Slavens, D-Canton Township, Richard Ball, R–Bennington Township, and Lesia Liss, D-Warren.
The proposal is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.
Jones said, “Our goal is to have it in effect by the end of the year.”