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Police officers try new test kits to check for drugged driving

Although Wisconsin police officers are trained to recognize when drivers are most likely drunk, establishing whether drivers are high presents a different challenge. The state of Wisconsin does employ drug recognition training to teach officers what to look for, but so far, there is no evidence-based test that has been approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration available to law enforcement officials -- or prosecutors.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, there were 815 drug-related car crashes on Wisconsin roads last year, 149 of which resulted in fatality. Crash reports show a recent reduction in car crashes involving alcohol, but those involving drugs like heroin, opioids and marijuana are on the rise. Efforts to reduce both alcohol-related and drug-related crashes are underway and have been somewhat successful. However, OWI cases involving drivers who are high are difficult to prove or disprove. 

Currently, there is no definitive way for a patrol officer to know whether you have been using drugs and/or your specific level of impairment. The officer sometimes has to obtain a warrant before subjecting you to field sobriety tests, but new chemical tests may be available soon. Patrol officers in Madison, Wisconsin have recently received federal grant money for equipment, test kits and officer training as part of a pilot program being conducted in order to reduce vehicular crashes related to drugged driving,

The program allowed officers in Dane County to swab the mouths of up to 300 suspected drugged drivers for later chemical testing of drug intoxication. Test results are expected to show what drugs, if any, have been taken by the drivers. The use of test kits may be either broadened or rendered impractical depending on the efficacy of the results. 

If you have questions or concerns about what kinds of tests police officers are allowed to administer if you're stopped for suspicion of OWI, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help. Be aware, however, that chemical testing for drug intoxication may be coming to your county in the near future. 

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