Yesterday, the media group MLIVE reported that, “The Michigan State Police is working on plans to establish a pilot program for roadside drug testing.” The new drug testing comes from legislation passed in 2013 after Barbara and Thomas Swift were killed by a tractor-trailer driver who had THC in his system. THC is the primary ingredient in marijuana and is responsible for the psychological aspects of the drug.
We all agree that drivers should not operate vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but here’s why the roadside drug test program is not yet a good idea:
-There has been no roadside drug tests created that have been proven to be accurate. The most common roadside drug kits cost police around $2, but they have been widely inaccurate. Until we can produce accurate results, we cannot support the use of these drug kits. ProPublica reports that:
In Las Vegas, authorities re-examined a sampling of cocaine field tests conducted between 2010 and 2013 and found that 33 percent of them were false positives. Data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab system show that 21 percent of evidence that the police listed as methamphetamine after identifying it was not methamphetamine, and half of those false positives were not any kind of illegal drug at all. In one notable Florida episode, Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies produced 15 false positives for methamphetamine in the first seven months of 2014. When we examined the department’s records, they showed that officers, faced with somewhat ambiguous directions on the pouches, had simply misunderstood which colors indicated a positive result.
-The roadside drug test program severely infringes on our 4th amendment. As citizens, we have the right to privacy, security, and our personal belongings. Only with probable cause can government officials search and seize our belongings, which includes our cars and bodies. As many of you know, probable cause has been ignored in many cases and warrants are not used as often as they should be. This law does not provide safeguards against discriminatory stops, and does not establish the way in which police will suspect that drivers are on drugs. Until these two issues are fixed, the program is arguably unconstitutional and definitely immoral.
-Finally, there is no saying how much this will cost our state. The police will likely be forced to use more accurate drug testing kits which will cost more than $2 per use. Also, if the government thinks the pilot program is a success, which is very likely because the government often thinks everything they do is a success, they will implement the roadside stops state-wide. There is no cost-analysis for how much this will cost taxpayers each year, and there has been no effort made to find out.