Attorney raises accuracy concerns over Michigan State Police roadside drug tests


    Attorney raises accuracy concerns over Michigan State Police roadside drug tests. (WWMT/File)

    Michigan State Police want to expand a program that would allow them to test drivers during traffic stops for drugs.

    An initial one year pilot program was started in 2017 in several areas including Kent and Berrien counties. Michigan State Police said the troopers who conduct the drug tests are highly trained to detect possible impairment. They are looking to test drivers who are swerving or not using turn signals, among many other things.

    In a report, MSP said the pilot program allowing officers to perform roadside drug tests using mouth swabs was successful. The effort is getting mixed reviews on social media, some calling it an invasion of privacy and unfair. Others said they have no problem with it and have nothing to hide.

    "I like the idea of keeping drugged drivers off the road," said Criminal Defense Attorney Ed Sternisha, who is based out of Grand Rapids.

    However, Sternisha thinks state troopers are relying too heavily on a testing device that isn't always accurate,

    "Would you want to be one of those people who gets arrested because this machine says you have one of these drugs in your system and the machine was just wrong?" he said.

    The report from Michigan State Police said the device they use is capable of producing false positives for drugs.

    During the initial pilot program, it was used on 92 drivers. 11 samples taken produced a false positive for THC and there were six false positives for amphetamines. However, MSP said the overall performance of the instrument is good. The report said as of December 2018, 38 people have been convicted on charges related to operating a vehicle while impaired.

    "I don't drink, I don't do drugs, but I would not take this test. I simply wouldn't do it because I don't want to risk a false positive," Sternisha said.

    Michigan State Police said the purpose of the road side drug tests is not only to keep the roads safer, but to have a more efficient way to detect drugs than a blood test, which can take hours because police may need a warrant and have to take the driver to a hospital.

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