Democrat eyes testing for drugged driving

The use of oral fluid tests is being proposed as a way for police in New York state to determine if a driver had recently used cannabis or other drugs.

Sen. John Mannion, D-Syracuse, has introduced S.9224 in the state Senate to allow police to test anyone involved in an accident or being driven in violation of state laws to be given an oral fluid test. Police officers would then be allowed to ask a person to submit to a chemical test if the oral fluid test showed the presence of cannabis in a person’s saliva.

“In New York 40% of fatal and injury crashes in 2020 were drug-related,” Mannion wrote in his legislative justification. “With the legalization of adult use cannabis and the continued problems associated with ‘synthetic drugs,’ New York’s laws regarding driving under the influence of drugs need to be updated to ensure public safety on the roads. New York is only one of a handful of states that requires a drug to be listed in statute to trigger a drugged driving violation. The list does not keep pace with the proliferation of rapidly changing synthetic drugs. The result is impaired drivers are allowed to endanger themselves and others with impunity.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, oral fluid devices can be administered at roadside in a screening capacity to confirm any suspicion of drug use after law enforcement conducts a standardized field sobriety test. The results help obtain a search warrant to collect blood or oral fluid for a laboratory test that would provide evidence for trial.

Through May 2021, 24 states had laws on the books authorizing forms of oral fluid specimen use in DUI cases.

Most states don’t collect oral fluid, instead using labs to collect samples. Two states have permanent oral fluid roadside screening programs. Alabama uses its program to test for marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, opioids and benzodiazepines while Indiana uses its program to build probable cause to call in a drug recognition expert.

Mannion said S.9224 would update New York law regarding field testing for drugged driving to include the use of oral/bodily fluids to help law enforcement properly identify actually impaired drivers. He said oral fluid testing has been the subject of dozens of studies and pilot programs over more than a decade while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published an evaluation of On-Site Oral Fluid Drug Screening Technology in April 2021 and identified methods that meet established accuracy and sensitivity standards.

Mannion’s proposal also requires drivers to submit to a field test at the request of a police officer and makes it a traffic infraction to violate any of the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Law. The bill also expands the times a court can order a chemical test in a suspected drunk or drugged driving crash. State law currently only allows a judge to require a chemical test in crashes where someone is killed or someone is seriously injured. Mannion wants to expand the chemical test requirements to cases where someone leaves the scene of an accident, any accident involving personal injury and cases involving someone with a history of impaired driving convictions.

Lastly, Mannion proposes suspending a driver’s license during prosecution of a drugged driving charge if the charges are supported by testing or admissions by the driver.

“The provision reflects the bill’s updates to the definitions of driving while under the influence of drugs,” Mannion wrote. “This is done to keep dangerous drivers off the road pending prosecution.”


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