Roadside saliva testing, an alternative to breath testing, has been used in countries such as Germany and Belgium for nearly a decade. One promising saliva test is now available in over a dozen states, including New York, California, Vermont and Michigan.
Introduced to American law enforcement officials in 2009, the Dräger DrugTest 5000 machine tests a person’s saliva for the presence of marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, methadone and sedatives such as benzodiazepines.
Currently, Dräger results are the only roadside saliva test results admissible in court, though attorneys say that Dräger toxicology results may not have an impact on how drug cases are resolved in court.
How does the Dräger saliva test work?
Using the Dräger machine is simple. If there is suspicion of drug intoxication, the driver is given a mouth swab and asked to run it around the inside of their mouth. The swab is then placed in a vial of solution for testing. If there’s a positive result, a DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) may be called to the scene to perform further evaluation of the driver or the driver may be taken in for a blood test.
According to CNN, other alternatives to the Dräger DrugTest 5000 currently in development include the Hound device by Hound Labs which tests for both marijuana and alcohol on a person’s breath and a similar device in development by Canada’s Cannabix Technologies.
Issues with roadside saliva testing for cannabis
While many drivers show impairment while under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, there are many who show few to no signs of intoxication at all. One person’s blood levels of delta-9 THC (the active compound responsible for impairment), may be the same as another’s, yet only one might show signs of intoxication.
Another roadblock for police is the lack of a consistent legal threshold for the amount of a particular drug present in an intoxicated driver’s system. Officers still must rely on very subjective data to determine if a person is impaired by a drug.
While we now have the technology to determine if a drug is present in a driver’s system, figuring out if they are actually impaired can still be a trial and error process for police, regardless of the type of machine used to gather initial evidence of intoxication.
If you have been charged with a DWAI involving marijuana intoxication, contact an experienced local DWI defense lawyer who can help you figure out your rights.