San Diego police are now following suit with various other police departments who have now implemented a mobile mouth swab device that is being used to test for drugged driving. However, one major flaw in their plan is that the swabs aren’t accurate for testing drug levels.
According to reports, the two Dräger DrugTest 5000 machines, which cost around $6,000 each, had been donated by the San Diego Police Foundation. To introduce the device to the public, the department implemented a DUI checkpoint in downtown San Diego on St. Patricks Day.
While the machine has the ability to test for a variety of drugs, including cocaine, weed, opiates, meth and benzos, it does not have the ability to tell if a driver is currently under the influence of such drugs, or what level the user has in their system. The city’s police chief explained the growing necessity for such machines due to the legalization of marijuana, however, he completely danced around the fact that the device does not actually have the ability to thwart drugged driving.
“It’s a huge concern of ours with the legalization of marijuana that we’re going to see an increase in impaired drugged driving,” Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said at a news conference Thursday near the Ingraham Street bridge in Mission Bay, a common DUI checkpoint spot.
Los Angeles, New York, Arizona, and Nevada have all began using the machines, however, San Diego’s will only be used for DUI checkpoints for now. Similar to breathalyzer testing, drivers have the right to refuse being tested with the Dräger 5000. However, if the driver refuses, they can be forced to submit to a blood test.
If the drivers agree, they are given a mouth swab test that they are asked to swab around in the inside of their mouth for a few minutes. The machine then scans the swab. If drugs are found, the driver is sent to a police phlebotomist to have their blood taken.
After the St. Patrick’s day swab testing induction, sobriety checkpoints actually found that there was a decrease in the number of DUI arrests. One checkpoint even indicated a 50% decrease in drugged drivers. Unfortunately, while the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana have actually proven to provide a number of benefits to regions all over the nation, this is yet another example of police authorities taking advantage of the legislation in order to invade the privacy of citizens.