Experts: ‘Just Say No’ to Michigan’s Roadside Drug Tests
Michigan's roadside drug testing legislation is something we've been watching very closely over the last few years. It is not because we are opposed to making sure our roadways are safe from intoxicated drivers. We should absolutely be doing everything we can to keep the roads safe. That is not up for debate. Our concern is tied to one specific group of people -- marijuana users.
For decades, marijuana laws have been used to railroad people into the justice system unfairly and undeservedly. In recent years, the public opinion on marijuana use has swung so far in the opposite direction that it's becoming impossible for the powers that be to keep using it as a weapon against us. Michigan's roadside drug testing is an effort by the system to take that power back.
Ever since we first covered the Snyder-signed legislation that made this policy the law, we've warned about the inaccuracy of this testing method as it pertains to marijuana usage. If you're a heavy smoker, you could possibly fail a roadside drug test up to four days after use. That's not only unjust, it's flat out irresponsible to decide someone's fate on testing that unreliable -- yet here we are.
We wanted to write an article detailing exactly what happens when you refuse the test back in October when the policy went into effect statewide. Unfortunately, getting detailed answers to our questions proved to be difficult.
We contacted Lt. Shannon Sims of the Michigan State Police Field Operations Bureau to ask what exactly happens if you refuse the roadside testing. We do know that it is a civil infraction, and carries a small fine (which may vary by community), but Lt. Sims chose his words very carefully when spelling out whether there were any other consequences.
It became difficult to get definitive answers on matters related to the program, but Lt. Sims did say that the test would not be the only determining factor in these cases and would be used when a driver appears intoxicated and would likely be going to jail anyway. He described the test as another tool, much like the standard sobriety test, they have at their disposal. All in all, we didn't get much out of the call and, ultimately, we had no new information to share.
Now, it appears that defense attorneys are advising people to do exactly what we suspected -- refuse the roadside drug test. Michael Komorn, a Farmington Hills attorney that specializes in marijuana law and drugged driving case, recently told MLive that it is better to take the civil infraction than to have unreliable test results used to prosecute you in court.
Sure, the test can be used for good. It is more accurate when it comes to drivers who are under the influence of hard drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and opiates, but that's not who is being busted. According to the results of the initial pilot program across five counties, 74 of the 92 tests administered came back positive for marijuana. It's not unreasonable to assume that the statewide pilot program results will be similarly skewed, just exponentially higher.
What You Need to Know About Michigan's Roadside Drug Tests
We could not get a definitive answer from the police on everything that happens when you refuse the roadside drug test. For example, refusing a breathalyzer can (and most likely will) result in you losing your license for two years. We wondered if that is the case with roadside drug testing refusals -- the MSP did not confirm nor deny that as a possibility when asked directly.
The bottom line is we can't advise you on how to conduct yourself out there, other than to say you should not drive while intoxicated. However, based on professional opinion, it would appear that refusing a roadside drug test may be less risky than taking it, especially if you're a heavy marijuana user.
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