Can Police Breath Test for Drugs?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on October 05, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

With drunk driving waning and drugged driving on the rise, it has become necessary for police to turn to some new technology to see if a driver is impaired. Blood tests can take too long and breath tests don't work for drugs. Or do they?

There is new research suggesting that a breath test may be able to detect the presence of drugs like amphetamines, methamphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, and even heroin. So does that mean cops can breath test you for drugs? Not yet, perhaps, but soon.

Breath Testing So Close...

A study published in the Journal of Chromatography B indicates a breath test could indicate the presence of drugs in the bloodstream by testing aerosol particles in the breath. Olof Beck, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden explained:

"These aerosol particles may become contaminated with drugs present in the body, which enables drugs to be highlighted. A simple collection device is currently available which selectively collects the micrometer aerosol particles on a filter and enables further laboratory investigation of possible drug content."

This simple collection device hasn't made it to market or the hands of police officers quite yet. So how can cops tell if a driver is too stoned?

...Yet So Far

Those of us who aren't Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell know that you can get a DUI for being high, or being under the influence of any drugs, including prescription drugs. And, other than the breathalyzer, the testing systems are similar as well. Officers can ask you to perform field sobriety tests, and they can draw blood for a DUI test.

Some police departments have also begun using drug swabs at DUI checkpoints. The swab can test for marijuana, cocaine, and other illicit drugs, and can return results in eight minutes rather than blood tests that can range from one day to one week to complete.

Scientists are hard at work on a drug breathalyzer, and as soon as it's here, police officers will have it. Drivers should know, however, that law enforcement doesn't need a positive breathalyzer test for a DUI conviction. In some states, evidence of bad driving coupled with any presence of a drug or alcohol in the blood or on a swab can mean a DUI. DUI laws can vary by jurisdiction, so if you've been charged with a DUI or DWI you should contact an experienced DUI attorney near you.

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