A recent story illustrates some concerns that Texas drivers may have about tests that screen for substances other than alcohol.
Authorities in a nearby state recently pulled a 38-year-old driver over after responding to another driver’s 911 call about the woman’s erratic driving. The responding officer decided to administer a field sobriety test after the woman couldn’t answer his questions about her route. The woman allegedly also failed the field test. Based on those responses, the officer arrested the woman for impaired driving, and she was administered a drug test.
The case is especially interesting because the woman may have made an admission to the officer that pulled her over — that she was taking a prescribed painkiller. However, the state lab did not show any drugs in the woman’s system. As a result, the court dismissed the case for lack of evidence, concluding that prosecutors had not met their burden of proof.
State, rather than federal law typically regulates chemical blood testing. However, there are budgetary limits to what state drug labs can screen for in a driver’s blood. According to the lab’s forensic analyst, the test administered to the woman in this case screens for only 35 to 40 drugs. Although nine other substances may be added in the near future, the lab simply lacks the financial resources to test for more.
A former prosecutor fellow for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration confirms that many state labs lack the resources to screen for the potentially thousands of substances that could impair an individual’s driving ability. As a result, a driver arrested for alleged DWI should take care to withhold making comments to the arresting officer. Instead, the driver should request a consultation with an experienced DWI for drug impairment attorney. An attorney will hold prosecutors to their burden of proof.
Source: WKYT, “DUI case highlights limits of police lab,” March 19, 2013