Gov. Whitmer Signs Bill To Allow More Roadside Drug Testing In Michigan

State Police Car
Photo credit (Photo: WWJ/Mike Campbell)

(WWJ) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill into law to allow statewide roadside drug testing in Michigan.

Senate Bill 718 amends the Michigan Vehicle Code to authorize a second, expanded pilot program for roadside drug testing by Michigan State Police for controlled substances, which will be in effect for one calendar year.

SB 718, which now becomes Public Act 718, was sponsored by Sen. Peter MacGregor, a Republican from Rockford. Read the bill here

The initial pilot program began in November 2017 in Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. Phase 2 of the pilot program began in October 2019, expanded to all 83 counties.

Under the law, MSP required to develop written policy for implementing the roadside testing and report on the number of traffic stops, convictions resulting from arrests based on test results, the different types of law enforcement officers participating, and more.  (You can read a report by MSP about the initial program here.)

It's part of an ongoing effort to cut down on so-called drugged driving, MSP said, after the state saw a more than 30% spike in impaired driving deaths.

Here's how it works: The law allows State Police to ask to swab drivers' mouths to determine if they've been using drugs.

Officers who are "trained as drug recognition experts" collect oral fluid if they suspected a driver is impaired, according to MSP First Lt. Jim Flegel. Police use a portable saliva-testing device designed to detect if a driver has certain drugs in his or her system — including marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, opiates and cocaine.

Speaking to WWJ Newsradio 950 last year, Flegel stressed that drivers would not be pulled over at random. 

But only “if they see signs of impairment,” Flegel said. “They will bring them out and they will put them through standardized field sobriety test...If those test positive for impairment and it lends them credibility and probable cause enough to believe they are impaired — then they will ask them to take this test instrument."

Those who refusing to submit to the test will be subject to a civil infraction.

Supporters of the program say police need ways to get dangerous drugged drivers off the road. Critics, however, are concerned that marijuana can be detected in the body long after its effects have dissipated.