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Mouth Swabs for Opiates: Expect Increased DUI Arrests

People who use benzos or opiates in Alameda County will find themselves subject to the same scrutiny as drinkers beginning this January. Police in many counties have added portable instant drug screens to their kits so that when they pull drivers over at checkpoints, they can check for impairment by substances beyond alcohol.

Officials can carry these mouth or buccal swabs in sealed envelopes in their kits. When they pull someone over who seems intoxicated but does not smell like alcohol, they can ask the person to submit to the mouth swab, which is voluntary at this time. The swab is run around the inside of the person’s mouth, collecting saliva from the insides of his cheeks and tongue, and in a matter of minutes it displays results for use of drugs including cocaine, opiates, marijuana, methadone, benzodiazepines, phencyclidine, amphetamines, or methamphetamine.

Most states have sunshine laws requiring drivers to submit to testing for alcohol, or risk losing their drivers licenses if they refuse. However, legislative wording changes will be required before cheek swabs can be administered under the same circumstances.

This news follows an August ruling reinstating cases against seven drivers in Alameda County.  While Alameda County drivers—indeed, drivers just about everywhere—can opt for blood tests instead of Breathalyzer exams, there is then a requirement for testimony that the blood test did not cause the driver any pain.

Mouth swabs offer an excellent option because they cause no pain, and there is no question that the saliva on the swab actually came from the driver. Many defendants that receive urine tests can alter their urine samples or even substitute urine samples.

Benzodiazepines Or Opiates In Alameda County

Most people who use benzodiazepines or opiates in Alameda County have escaped detection in the past simply because police couldn’t test for those drugs if there wasn’t evidence of intoxication. However, the mouth swabs send out a warning to anyone who uses these drugs that car-side testing likely will soon become routine. The conviction rate for DUI arrests in Alameda County stands at 70 percent, and we can expect a similar conviction rate for arrests from other intoxicants.

Use of opiates while driving can cause delayed reaction time, reduced decision-making skills, deterioration in coordination, an inability to think clearly, impairment from blurred vision or dizziness, drowsiness, or even nausea. Fighting an arrest for using opiates can cost upwards of $12,000. Wouldn’t it just be easier to quit using? 866.840.6658

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