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Questioning the validity of roadside drug tests

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Roadside drug tests play a part in Georgia law enforcement efforts to combat impaired driving. These tests are designed to quickly determine whether a driver is under the influence of drugs, allowing officers to take appropriate action. However, concerns exist regarding the reliability of these tests, with mounting evidence suggesting that they may not always provide accurate results.

Technical limitations

Most tests utilize immunoassay technology, which can yield false positives due to cross-reactivity with unrelated substances. Common medications, such as cold and allergy drugs, can trigger positive results for illicit substances. Moreover, test sensitivity can vary widely, leading to inconsistent outcomes and potentially wrongful accusations and convictions for drug crimes.

Lack of standardization

Different jurisdictions employ various testing methods and devices, resulting in inconsistent protocols and varying levels of accuracy. The absence of standardized procedures can undermine the reliability of the tests and raise doubts about the validity of the results obtained, giving drivers the ability to dispute them.

Human error

Relying on human interpretation further compounds the problem. Roadside drug tests often involve subjective visual observations, which are susceptible to bias and errors. Factors such as lighting conditions, officer training and judgment can all influence the interpretation of the test results.

Legal and social consequences

Relying solely on unreliable roadside drug tests can have severe legal and social consequences. False positive results can result in unwarranted arrests, loss of driving privileges, financial burdens and damage to an individual’s reputation. Furthermore, certain marginalized communities may be disproportionately affected, further exacerbating existing social inequalities.

Disputing roadside drug test accuracy

While roadside drug tests serve as a useful tool in initial screenings for drug impairment, their reliability should always be viewed with caution. Policymakers, law enforcement agencies and experts should work collaboratively to improve the reliability of roadside drug tests, ensuring that accurate results are obtained before taking any legal action. Until then, drivers should exercise their right to dispute a test result when there are grounds to believe that the specific test has rendered an incorrect reading.


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