A recently passed law in Arkansas means that drunk driving suspects in the state now face yet another possible test to determine if they have been driving under the influence of alcohol. The bill, which was sponsored by State Senator Jake Files, was recently implemented and allows law enforcement officers to use saliva tests as yet another tool for determining if a driver is under the influence.
Files claims that he supported the bill to provide help to police officers who could benefit from having another tool in their toolbox. What Files failed to mention, according to some opponents of the bill, is that one of its earliest proponents is Lieutenant Allan Marx, an active law enforcement officer in the state who also happens to be a distributor for one of the saliva test kits, OralTox. Marx sells the test kits on his person website, gotchadwi.com. Marx claims that this does not represent a conflict of interest, despite his role as a law enforcement official/saliva test distributor.
The Arkansas law is clear that agencies can purchase their test strips from a number of distributors and that no one is obligated to use Marx as their source for saliva swabs. The law was endorsed by the state’s Sherriff’s Association, Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Arkansas Association of Police Chiefs, enough backing to get the measure easily through the state legislature.
Neighboring states such as Tennessee and Mississippi do not permit saliva tests for DUI arrests; something that many criminal defense attorneys say is because the tests are notoriously unreliable. Here in Minnesota, the tests are also not allowed, only tests of a person’s blood, breath or urine. Only four states, including Michigan, which was the first to allow the procedure, currently permit saliva testing.
Some claim that the saliva tests are useless because they have been known to react to the presence of any alcohol in the blood above 0.02 percent. This means that the strips will turn colors even though the driver may not actually be legally intoxicated, with a BAC above 0.08 percent. The problem with the strips then is that it does not give officers a clear idea of which suspects deserve to be placed under arrest and which may only have had a few drinks.
One problem mentioned by critics of saliva tests is that they can be very cumbersome to administer and directions must be followed precisely for them to work properly. That means that test takers cannot have had anything else in there mouth for at least 10 minutes prior to a test to ensure accurate results. Almost any substance can dilute saliva or distort lab results. Even water may be enough to wash away saliva. This seems to indicate that not only are the tests potentially unreliable, but that officers have the added burden of dealing with confusing and complicated testing procedures. Rather than helping, the additional testing procedure appears to be a lose-lose.
Source: “Arkansas Law Now Allows Saliva Tests At DUI Stops,” by Natasha Chen, published at WREG.com.