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How do the police test for drug impairment during a traffic stop?

On Behalf of | May 3, 2021 | DUI Defense |

Did you know that you could face charges for driving under the influence if you seem to be under the influence of drugs during a traffic stop? While many people think of DUIs as charges used for those who had too much alcohol to drink, you can actually face a DUI when you’re impaired by any kind of substance.

Interestingly, though officers can check your blood alcohol concentration easily at the scene with the use of a Breathalyzer test, they can’t easily test you for drug use. The officer may ask you if you’ve been using drugs or take you into custody because of your reckless driving or unusual behaviors, though.

What kinds of portable drug tests are there?

There are some kinds of portable drug tests that some officers might have on hand, though this isn’t particularly common. For example, there are swabs that can easily test for the presence of narcotic drugs during the traffic stop. Wipes might be used to test an area of your skin or a vehicle.

These drug tests aren’t on hand for every traffic stop. So, what is more likely to happen? A Drug Recognition Expert may be called to the scene. If they agree that you appear to be under the influence of an impairing substance, then the officer will take you to the hospital or police station for a urine or blood test.

Why is a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) so important?

A DRE is important because they are able to rule out other conditions that might be leading to an appearance of impairment. For example, the DRE may note that if you have uneven pupils, then you could be having a neurological issue and need to call 911. If you present with vertical gaze nystagmus without alcohol intoxication, then this could be a sign that you need medical care for another condition as well.

There are not many tests used roadside to test for drug use, but there are tests if a urine or blood test are taken. If an officer suspects that you’re impaired, you should expect that they will ask, or obtain a warrant, for those samples to be taken.