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Roadside THC breathalyzers may soon be used by police

Michigan DUI defense attorney

Michigan legalized recreational marijuana on December 6, 2018. More than one year later, law enforcement officers are scrambling to find ways to enforce the state's intoxicated driving laws. This potentially includes the future use of THC breathalyzers.

Some municipalities across Michigan may encourage police officers to crack down on marijuana use by going after drivers with THC in their systems. Unlike alcohol, THC can stay in someone's system for up to a month. Even a blood test designed to detect THC doesn't necessarily prove that someone was driving while under the influence.

Are THC breath tests coming soon?

Researchers have developed prototype breathalyzers designed to detect THC. Whether or not they can accurately detect if someone is driving high is questionable, however. According to NPR, we may be inching closer to roadside THC breath tests.

Alexander Star is a chemistry professor and Ervin Sejdic is an electrical and computer professor — both at the University of Pittsburgh. They developed the first prototype THC breathalyzer in 2016, a period when several states began legalizing recreational marijuana. They have continued to develop this device over the years, which is now almost ready for mass production.

THC molecules bind to carbon nanotubes in the device. According to Star and Sejdic, the tubes are so sensitive that they can detect THC on someone's breath, even if alcohol or other substances were consumed.

The device supposedly has a limit on how much THC it can detect. Star and Sejdic say that this limit allows the device to tell if someone is currently high, as opposed to having THC in his or her system from days ago.

The legal issues when using THC breathalyzers

THC breathalyzers can be particularly dangerous if they get into the hands of Michigan police. Unlike the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.08 percent, there is no such limit on THC. That means any trace of THC found on a driver's breath can lead to an arrest and conviction.

These devices also raise a question of accuracy. Several investigations into alcohol breathalyzers have found that these devices can experience glitches. Several DUI suspects have been arrested and convicted due to faulty readings. So who's to say that the same won't happen with THC breathalyzers? How do we know for sure that traces of THC won't show up from a day or two earlier?

If you are facing DUI charges due to a breathalyzer reading, it's critical that you consult with a lawyer as soon as possible. Breath tests can often be disputed in court, especially when there is no other hard evidence proving that you were under the influence of alcohol or THC at the time of your arrest.

With more than 70 years of combined experience in DUI defense, the attorneys at Manley & Manley can help you fight the charges. Contact us online today to find out how.

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