Law enforcement officials have a variety of tools at their disposal when it comes to combating impaired driving. For example, as we discussed in a post just last week, the Missouri State Highway Patrol frequently deploys both sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in an attempt to make the roads as safe as possible or, in other words, make as many DWI arrests as possible.
Interestingly, our neighbor to the south recently unveiled a new — and controversial — tool in its efforts to crack down on drunk driving.
Last month, a new law went into effect in Arkansas allowing law enforcement agencies to utilize saliva tests to determine whether a motorist is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
While the idea of saliva tests may sound strange, they have been in use in European countries for many years. Furthermore, eight U.S. states, including Missouri, have already passed laws permitting their use.
According to Arkansas officials, officers who pull a motorist over on suspicion of impaired driving can administer the test to screen for the presence of alcohol or other drugs (marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, etc.). If the test kit gives a positive result, it theoretically provides the officer with probable cause to make an arrest, allowing them to administer a more reliable blood or urine test at a later point in time.
“I’m of the firm opinion and belief that any tool we can get for law enforcement that can make us safer is good,” said state Sen. Jake Files, the sponsor of the underlying legislation. “It gives law enforcement a tool in the field to check for sobriety and drugs, and it’s a quick barometer of what’s going on with (an intoxicated driver).”
Criminal defense attorneys and legal experts have been quick to point out that saliva tests are notoriously unreliable, with one attorney even going so far to label them “junk science.”
However, both sides do agree on one thing: the Arkansas Supreme Court will more than likely be called upon very soon to resolve whether saliva tests will become a permanent DUI enforcement tool in the state.
Stay tuned for updates …
If you have been arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney who will explain your options, and uncover any errors in the testing administered.
Source: WREG, “Arkansas law now allows saliva tests at DUI stops,” Natasha Chen, July 25, 2103; Arkansas News, “Saliva testing to determine narcotic influence,” Hicham Raache, May 6, 2013