Police officials in Los Angeles have announced that a new tool used to conduct drug tests will be deployed at sobriety checkpoints around the city in a bid to bust those driving under the influence of drugs.
The new tool has been paid for thanks to a new grant and has drawn the support of the group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The device is portable, much like a Breathalyzer, and will be used to check drivers’ saliva for drugs. The plan is for officers at the city’s sobriety checkpoints to come equipped with both the drug testing device and the Breathalyzer and use both in cases where they suspect of impaired driving.
The LAPD says that officers will be required to ask suspected impaired drivers for their consent before using the oral swab. Unlike breath tests, the drug swab is voluntary and must be agreed to by drivers before use. Assuming the driver agrees to submit to the test, the swab will be run around their gums and cheek and will then be inserted inside the machine, which will quickly provide results.
The maker of the tool says that results will appear in under eight minutes. The test has been designed to test for a range of eight illegal drugs including cocaine, benzodiazepine, amphetamines and even marijuana. Police say that during a pilot testing program, officers used the drug testing swab kit dozens of times with apparent success. Despite the big rollout, officials say that none of the previous drug swab tests have been submitted into evidence in a criminal case, though it appears it’s only a matter of time until prosecutors attempt to use the evidence against an impaired driver.
Though MADD and other groups have praised the new drug testing kit, others have raised some serious concerns. For one thing, many have expressed dismay that drivers at checkpoints will now be asked to submit to multiple tests to determine impairment. Even though the oral swab is voluntary, many criminal defense experts say that ordinary drivers might easily become confused or feel pressured into submitting to the test, perhaps unwittingly incriminating themselves.
Another issue that has not been fully fleshed out is what will happen with the tests once the results have been gathered. The cheek swabs will not only contain saliva, but also critically important DNA information. Some privacy groups have raised concerns about whether the DNA might later be stored by officers and entered into a criminal database, perhaps to solve cold cases. The LAPD has not yet announced its protocol for disposing of the swabs, a decision that will be watched closely by groups like the ACLU.
Source: “LAPD Highlights New Roadside Swab Drug Test,” by Melissa Pamer, published at KTLA.com.