Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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The Dräger DrugTest 5000: A portable marijuana “breathalyzer”

Police who suspect drivers to be under the influence of drugs have a new tool to confirm their suspicions. Rather than relying on highly subjective and easily challengeable officer observations and/or voluntary field sobriety tests to establish probable cause to arrest, officers can now ask a suspect to submit to a mouth swab and run the sample through a portable device that tests for the presence of active THC (which remains in the body for a few hours after ingestion – as opposed to inactive THC, which can stay in the body for weeks). The device also tests for six other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

The Dräger DrugTest 5000 does not measure the level of a drug (or drugs) present; a positive result, though, would almost certainly give an officer enough to make a valid arrest. An officer armed with such evidence would also have no problem getting a warrant for a blood draw. Blood draws can pin down the exact amount of a drug in one’s system.

It is important to note that drivers may (and probably should) refuse to provide a mouth swab, just like they may (and probably should) refuse to submit to voluntary portable breath tests and voluntary field sobriety tests.

Not many police departments have Dräger DrugTest 5000s yet.