As more states decriminalize marijuana, and as the opioid epidemic rages on, drugged driving is a growing concern throughout Rhode Island and the United States. However, drugged driving is still a form of driving under the influence and, as such, is illegal in every state. In an effort to identify and reprimand drugged drivers, more states are training police officers to perform blood draws either at the police station or from a van at the site of the traffic stop. Moreover, states now allow law enforcement officers to appeal to on-call judges for electronic warrants. PBS explores how both on-site blood draws and e-warrants can be a game changer in the battle against drugged driving.
Though it is easy for law enforcement to test for alcohol impairment, as breathalyzers give a fairly accurate picture of a driver’s BAC level, there is no such machine that can accurately test for drug impairment. Blood tests, however, can paint a pretty clear picture about a person’s drug use, including how much of a drug a person took and when he or she last used.
Blood draws pose two issues, however. For one, a law enforcement officer needs a warrant to draw blood. Two, the body metabolizes the psychoactive compound in drugs such as marijuana and heroin quickly, making it impractical for an officer to send a suspected drugged driver to a lab for testing, a process that can take hours, if not days. By the time the suspect actually underwent testing, his or her blood would show a significantly reduced concentration of the drug.
To overcome those two issues, states are now training their police officers to draw drivers’ blood either in a lab van or at the department. Additionally, many have implemented a system in which on-call judges can quickly review and approve requests for warrants and issue them via a digital database.
Though many call into question the constitutionality of on-site blood draws, it is, as of right now, the best means of testing for drugged driving. PBS also notes that police officers only resort to a blood draw if other signs, such as a driver’s driving pattern, interaction with the officer, physical appearance and field sobriety tests indicate impairment.
This article should not be used as legal advice. It is for your educational purposes only.