Drugged driving is a growing concern as more states legalize marijuana and the opioid epidemic rages. More communities are training police officers to draw drivers’ blood at police stations or in vans. On-call judges are approving warrants electronically, often in a matter of minutes at any time of day or night, Stateline reports. Together, the blood tests and e-warrants “could be a game-changer in law enforcement,” said Buffalo Grove, Il., Police Chief Steven Casstevens, incoming president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
While it’s easy for police to screen drivers for alcohol impairment using breath-testing devices to get a blood alcohol concentration level, there’s no such machine to screen for drug impairment. That’s why blood tests are so important. Alcohol and drugs such as heroin and the psychoactive compound in marijuana are metabolized quickly in the body, so the more time that elapses, the lower the concentration. Having an officer draw the suspect’s blood soon after he is stopped gives a truer picture of his impairment because he doesn’t have to be taken to a health center for a blood draw after he is arrested, they say. Police departments also save money because they don’t need to pay phlebotomists and hospitals for blood draws. Having a system in which a judge can sign off quickly on an electronic warrant for a blood test streamlines the process.