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New tool will help Indiana police officers identify drug-impaired drivers

52 agencies to start using the units this month
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Posted at 8:15 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 20:15:40-05

INDIANAPOLIS — More than 50 law enforcement agencies in Indiana are getting a new tool to help identify if someone is driving while impaired by drugs.

The SoToxa Mobile Test System is a handheld analyzer and can detect the presence of cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, cannabis, amphetamine, and benzodiazepines within five minutes.

Agencies will begin using 66 of the units this month.

“For decades, officers have been using handheld devices such as portable breathalyzers in the field, but this is the first time they’ll be able to test for the presence of drugs,” said Devon McDonald, Indiana Criminal Justice Institute Executive Director, in a press release. “This technology is a game-changer for road safety and Indiana law enforcement.”

An officer must have a reason to stop a driver and suspect the driver is impaired before they can use SoToxa, according to a press release from ICJI. Officers then would use typical techniques like field sobriety tests, a portable breath test, and interviews with the suspect to evaluate the driver.

If an officer suspects someone is driving drug-impaired, they can ask the suspect to take a test using the SoToxa. Like a portable breath test, the SoToxa test can be refused and the results cannot be used as evidence in court to determine if a driver was impaired.

The SoToxa tests will help an officer determine if there is probable cause for an arrest, use a certified breath test, or apply for a search warrant for a blood draw, according to the release.

“SoToxa is not a substitute for officer training or experience,” said Rob Duckworth, ICJI Traffic Safety Director, in the press release. “It’s an additional resource they can use to remove drugged and dangerous drivers from using the road. Undoubtedly, this technology will save lives.”

Each SoToxa unit is reusable. The units cost $4,500 each and were paid for using funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

According to a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of fatally injured drivers with known positive results drugs increased in 2016 compared to the last decade.

You can click here to see which agencies are getting the devices.