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Could you start seeing marijuana breath tests at traffic stops?

Even though you may not be able to cite the specific state law, most people know that it is illegal here in Florida to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  This form of impaired driving is considered reckless in the eyes of the law, which not only increases your risk of getting into an accident for which you may face civil litigation, but it increases your chances of a traffic stop that could lead to serious criminal charges and even more litigation.

When it comes to impaired driving stops, there are two common ways that police determine intoxication.  The first is through breath tests, which are typically conducted during DUI stops.  The second is blood draws, which is the only way to determine if a person is driving under the influence of drugs.

This second form of testing is considered highly invasive though and almost always requires a warrant before testing can proceed.  But if a chemistry professor at Washington State University succeeds in his research, residents here in Melbourne, as well as across the nation, may start seeing breath tests used in traffic stops to detect the presence of drugs.

According to reports, the device would use ion mobility spectrometry, a technique used in some models of Breathalyzers already.  The device would detect the presence of the chemical THC, possibly even giving officers an idea of the drug's concentration level in a driver's bloodstream.

Although Florida Statute § 316.193 is specific about a person's blood-alcohol concentration for DUI charges, our state's laws do not include a concentration level for drugs like marijuana because the use of the drug is prohibited in our state.  Even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that it' difficult to establish a relationship between THC concentrations in the blood and impairment due to a number of variables, our state laws are clear: any presence of marijuana in a person's system can lead to criminal charges.

So when could you start seeing marijuana breath tests at traffic stops?  If reports are true, then the scientists working on the device may have a working prototype by the end of the year and could start testing it as soon as January 2015.  When the device will be seen on Florida's roadways though has yet to be determined.

Source:  The Washington Times, "Marijuana breath test being developed at Washington State University," Jessica Chasmer, Nov. 30, 2014

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