MI: Local police trained for drug driving detection

In the past three months, four cases of drug-impaired driving, two with deaths and two with serious injuries,  occurred in Branch County.

“There was no alcohol involved,” Branch County Prosecutor Zack Stempien said.

His office used forfeiture funds to pay $200 per officer for 16 officers from Coldwater, Quincy, and the Branch County Sheriff’s Office to complete a two-day ARIDE training program in Coldwater this week.

‘ARIDE stands for Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement.

“The training is intended to give the officers more tools for drug-impaired driving cases. That way they can do a more thorough investigation,” the prosecutor said.

Of the four cases which inspired the need for training, one was a hit-and-run death of children riding bicycles along Ralston Road. Another was the death of a bicyclist on Angola Road. There were serious injuries in a Marshall Street accident and at Copeland and Fremont roads in Kinderhook Township. 

With all happening in a three-month time frame. “It’s pretty evident that it’s going to continue to be an issue in our community” the prosecutor said.

A person with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or above is considered impaired. There is no number to show a level of intoxication for other drugs.

He teaches three more tests other than the standard field sobriety tests which are related to drug-induced reactions.

“So you really have to rely on your observations to be able to lay the foundation to get probable cause” to obtain a search warrant for a blood draw drug test.

There is only a pilot program with the Michigan State Police to do roadside tests for drug intoxication like the breath test for alcohol. Sgt. Janes is not sure there will be a reliable one anytime soon.

For drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine, it is illegal to drive with any in your system. For the two most abused drugs, marijuana and meth, the law is different. 

“The way the statutes are written in the state of Michigan, even if you get a drug test with a positive meth screen or a positive marijuana screen, you still have got to show they’re impaired by that drug. You can’t just rely on the fact that it’s in their system to convict them of those crimes,” the prosecutor said. 

Legislators changed the law so drug convictions no longer require an automatic driver’s license suspension. If related to the crime, suspension can be ordered as a condition of probation.

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