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Kentucky considering problematic drugged-driving test kits

Benton drivers pulled over and arrested by Paducah police for DUI might be asked an odd question: “Would you mind swabbing your mouth?” The city’s police department is one of three in Kentucky evaluating a roadside drug testing kit.

The kit’s screening device analyzes the saliva on a mouth swab, giving the officer information on whether any of 10 drugs are present in the driver’s system. While the test is voluntary and its results cannot be used as evidence against anyone, it will be understandable if people asked to participate in the evaluation pause before answering.

Many will decline the offer to help police try out a new testing process that some believe will further erode Fourth Amendment rights protecting Americans from unreasonable searches. “They are chipping away at our rights — I just don’t know how else to put it,” a Louisville DUI defense attorney said of the kits.

The assistant director of Highway Safety Programs told a newspaper that the kits are currently being evaluated, and if found to be reliable and accurate, might be approved by lawmakers for police use across Kentucky. If the kits go into widespread use, he said they would help officers make better decisions about people who drive while high on illegal drugs or prescription medications.

He said the driving-high kits would be used like roadside alcohol-breath tests are currently employed to pinpoint drunk drivers.

The kits cannot determine to what degree a person is impaired. They indicate only that a drug is present in the person’s system. But what of marijuana, traces of which can linger days after consumption? WebMD says Xanax can leave traces in a person’s system for nearly two days after consumption — making use of the roadside drug test problematic for people taking prescribed doses of the common anti-anxiety medication.

The kits might also be problematic for Kentucky judges resistant to rights erosion.

For now, the tests are, as noted, voluntary. If you face DUI charges, it makes sense to have on your side a Marshall County defense attorney who understands changes in law and technology and who knows how to protect your rights and freedoms.