Can a Police Officer Test for Drugs in a Traffic Stop?
Most people are aware that police officers can use field sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests to check whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol, but drugs are a different story. Traces of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and even over-the-counter drugs in your system can lead to a DUI with drugs charge, yet they do not appear on breathalyzer tests, and they influence the body in different ways. So, the question remains: how do officers know if a driver was using drugs?
Requirements for a Traffic Stop
Before a Wyoming police officer can test a driver for alcohol or drugs, he must first have a reasonable suspicion – or probable cause – that the driver is intoxicated. Officers cannot pull someone over on a hunch or gut feeling. They must act on facts and be able to justify pulling that someone over before a judge. Pulling someone over without probable cause is technically an illegal stop and can lead to the case against that person being thrown out of court.
Examples of probable cause for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs include the driver:
- Weaving between lanes
- Driving over the speed limit
- Driving the wrong way
- Suddenly stopping, slowing down, or speeding up
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Ignoring traffic signs and local laws
- Striking objects or other vehicles
Confirming a Driver Was Under the Influence of Drugs
If an officer has probable cause, then she can pull a driver over and question him further to determine why he was acting erratically. A justified traffic stop is enough for an officer to test a driver for alcohol or drug use, but the process is different for each. With alcohol, officers can use field sobriety tests and breathalyzers to check a driver’s blood alcohol concentration levels.
For drugs, it is a little harder. Field sobriety tests can determine whether a driver is impaired, but modern breathalyzers cannot detect drug use. Each illegal drug utilizes different chemicals to influence the brain, such as THC for marijuana, and breathalyzers are not capable of testing for these chemicals. Instead, if an officer has reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence of drugs, she can request a chemical test. While drivers can refuse these tests, it leads to an automatic license suspension from the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WyDOT). If you do agree to it, the officer will take you a testing facility, where a lab technician will use a hair or blood sample to check you for drug use.
Fighting a DUI With Drugs Charge
Remember, police officers must follow proper procedures before charging a driver with a DUI with drugs. First, they must have reasonable suspicion; then, they must perform a field sobriety test; and, if they have justification, they must request a chemical test. Any mistakes in this process could lead to a false positive and be instrumental in your defense.
If you or a family member has been charged with a DUI with drugs, reach out to our team at Steven Titus & Associates, P.C. Our Gillette criminal defense team has years of experience as trial attorneys and can thoroughly investigate your case. We can utilize any form of police misconduct or testing errors to protect your future.
To discuss your case in a free case evaluation, call Steven Titus & Associates, P.C., at (307) 257-7800.
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