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North Dakota officers test out portable drug detection devices

On Behalf of | May 7, 2023 | DUI

While driving under the influence of alcohol is certainly a problem throughout North Dakota and nationwide, many DUI arrests involve drivers who are suspected of being under the influence of drugs. Sometimes, they have a variety of legal and illegal drugs in their system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that over half of all crashes that seriously injured or killed someone in 2020 involved one or more drivers who had evidence of at least one drug in their system.

Even if you’re taking legal drugs obtained with a valid prescription or over-the-counter cold medication, if a police officer believes that they’ve impaired your ability to drive safely, you can be arrested and charged with DUI. Proving that a driver is impaired by drugs, however, is more complicated than proving that they’ve had too much to drink.

What do drug recognition experts do?

Law enforcement agencies in North Dakota and other states have programs where they train some of their officers to serve as drug recognition experts (DREs). These officers have learned how to recognize the physical signs of drug impairment that can be detected in the eyes, pulse, muscle tone, and more. They’re also trained to recognize signs of impairment when speaking with someone.

No Breathalyzer-type test for drugs (even marijuana) has yet been approved. There are blood tests, but those take longer to produce results, and those results can be inconclusive. This will likely change within the next few years. North Dakota’s DREs are participating in a pilot program where they’ll be using a mobile screening device designed to detect the presence of certain drugs in a driver. These include marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and opiates.

The device can be carried by officers to use at traffic stops to confirm or measure drugs in someone’s system. If the results of this program are positive, law enforcement agencies may start using this device in a widespread capacity as early as 2025.

Currently, of course, an officer can still arrest someone whom they believe to be driving while under the influence of drugs. It doesn’t matter whether they think you were vaping marijuana or snorting cocaine. It’s crucial to seek legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights and your future if you ever find yourself in this situation.