ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK
An Illinois police department will be among the first in the country to use a mouth swab drug-testing kit that can detect if motorists pulled over on suspicion of impairment have drugs in their system.
The suburban village of Carol Stream is slated to be the first municipality in the state – and one of only a few in the nation – to roll out the small and portable tests manufactured by German biotechnology company Protzek.
Tests – which will quickly determine the presence and amount of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines, and opiates such as heroin – will be performed on willing suspects who have already been arrested and who consent to testing. The results cannot be used against them in court.
The procedure for the test will go as follows: an officer will screen a driver who has been pulled over for cause using a mouth swab, which will then be tested by a mobile P.I.A.2 device. Subsequently, the device will produce measurements of a drug present in the driver’s system.
Officers in only four other states – Michigan, Kansas, Colorado and California – have similar tests at their disposal. Tests cost approximately $30 per kit and funding will come from existing DUI Tech funds.
That the test measures the amount of the drug’s presence and not merely detects it is significant because the state doesn’t recognize the presence of controlled substances alone as sufficient evidence of impairment. Marijuana, for example, can be detected for days after it is used even if its effects have worn off.
Sgt. Brian Cluever of the Carol Stream Police Department’s traffic and safety unit said the goal is to perform 50 to 100 sample tests. Cluever said if the testing is proven effective, it can hopefully be used by Carol Stream and throughout the state.
Since last year, the level of a driver’s impairment must cross a defined threshold before reaching illegality, necessitating more than just a mere positive or negative test result.
According to state law, a blood, urine or breath sample may be procured by police on suspicion that a driver is under the influence. In the coming months in Carol Stream, motorists suspected of being impaired will also be asked for a swab.
The department already is known for its aggressive drunk-driving enforcement. This, in part, is why Judicial Testing Systems, the company that distributes the system in Illinois, first approached Carol Stream police.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, for the first time, the number of drivers involved in fatal deaths who tested positive for drugs outpaced those who tested positive for alcohol.
Carol Stream authorities herald the Protzek test as a greater means of facilitating enforcement against driving under the influence.
“We want to give officers all the tools they need to make sure they’re making the right decisions and removing intoxicated drivers from the roads,” ” Cluever said. “Once we have proven this in court and it’s been proven in the scientific community to be accurate and reliable, then there’s no reason why it should not go statewide,” Cluever said.
Defense attorney Don Ramsell, who specializes in D.U.I. law, is skeptical of the new test.
“They might just as well hand somebody a bag of nachos and see if he eats it,” Ramsell said. “That’s just as valid.”
Ultimately, the courts will make the decision on the validity of the new test. In the meantime, the verdict is still out.