Device for roadside drug testing set to be approved in Canada
Last month Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould published a notice of intention to approve the Dräger DrugTest 5000, and list it as “approved drug screening equipment” for law enforcement to use at the roadside to test for both THC and cocaine.
However, CTV News Canada is reporting the Dräger DrugTest 5000 isn't suited for cold weather, and has been found to give “fairly large proportions of false-positive or false-negative results.”
According to CTV News, they have found concerns about the efficacy and efficiency of the device that uses a saliva sample to test for the presence of both THC and cocaine in roadside testing.
“It’s inevitable that we’re going to see constitutional challenges as soon as this device hits the roads. This is something that is a significant departure from what the Supreme Court of Canada has authorized, and what police has been doing thus far,” said Kyla Lee, a criminal lawyer focused on roadside impairment testing.
RCMP patrol cruiser British Columbia Emergency Photography
Lee cited a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology that examined the use of the device in Norway. Results showed that the Dräger DrugTest 5000 “did not absolutely correctly identify DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) offenders due to fairly large proportions of false-positive or false-negative results compared to drug concentrations in blood.”
The study was published in February 2018, was undertaken to compare the results of field testing of the DDT5000 with drug findings in blood and oral fluid samples taken from 300 drivers suspected for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). Norway has a legal limit for THC in the blood set at 14.5 percent.
Among drivers who had drug concentrations above the legal limits in blood, the proportion who tested positive using DDT5000 was 82.9 percent for THC. In cases with false-positive DDT5000 results compared to blood, traces of drugs were most often found in the oral fluid.
"The DDT5000 did not absolutely correctly identify DUID offenders due to fairly large proportions of false-positive or false-negative results compared to drug concentrations in blood," write the authors in the study. This is an important statement because Lee does not mention that the DDT5000 device being used also tests saliva for amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates, and benzodiazepines, besides cannabis and cocaine.
The Norwegian Mobile Police Service (NMPS) has been using the DDT5000 since 2015, and they say this latest study the device is still a valuable tool in identifying possible DUID offenders, resulting in more than doubling the number of apprehended DUID offenders.
DUI Checkpoint Greg Matthews
Current testing for impaired driving
Law enforcement uses standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) to check for drug-impaired drivers. This evaluation includes three psycho-physical tests: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test; Walk and Turn Test; and One Leg Stand Test.
Jennifer Graham, the senior communications consultant for the Ministry of Justice, stated that in addition to the SFST, the new saliva tests will aid the police officers, “to determine if there are reasonable grounds to believe an offense has been committed.”
According to the Drager website, "The Dräger DrugTest® 5000 system is a fast, accurate means of testing oral fluid samples for drugs of abuse, such as amphetamines, designer amphetamines, opiates, cocaine and metabolites, benzodiazepines, cannabinoids, and methadone.
The DDT5000 operates best at a temperature between 5 to 40 °C (+41 to +104°F), and has a storage temperature range of -20 to +60°C (-4 to +140°F). This is one of the main arguments for not using the DDT5000 in Canada, according to some critics.
But keep in mind that the device is a screening test and if law enforcement takes into account other factors in suspecting someone may be driving-impaired, there will be follow-up testing.