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Philips Develops Roadside Drug-Testing Device

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the better-for-your-privacy-citizen dept.

Biotech 647

Al writes "A handheld developed by Philips for law enforcement detects traces of cocaine, heroin, cannabis, and methamphetamine in 90 seconds. The system uses magnetic nanoparticles attached to ligands that bind to traces of these drugs. Once saliva has been placed inside the device, an electromagnet mixes the sample and the nanoparticles. Frustrated total internal reflection (FTIR) — the same phenomenon that underlies fingerprint scanners and multitouch screens — is then used to measure a change to the refractive index. By immobilizing different drug molecules on different parts of a sensor surface, the analyzer is able to identify traces of each different drug. An electronic screen displays instructions and a simple color-coded readout of the results."

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Freedom FTIR (0, Offtopic)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943787)

Freedom FTIR [killuglyradio.com]
Disinformatzia inciter
Whip up the suds
Leave the sensor still whiter
Burma Shave

Legalization (4, Interesting)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943805)

This could go a long way towards treating other drugs like alcohol for driving purposes. One of the major roadblocks in legalization was no field test for driving while impaired.

Re:Legalization (5, Informative)

valkoinen (81260) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943933)

The question is does it detect active ingredients instead of metabolites? For example cannabis can test positive even several days (or weeks) after consumption.

Re:Legalization (2, Interesting)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944015)

The technology appears to be able to be tuned to detect specific molecules (by the large variety of things they can make it detect). So long as there's a molecular difference between active cannabis and the metabolites then you shouldn't end up with false positives for weeks after.

Re:Legalization (4, Insightful)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944355)

We're still a long way to legalizing cannabis. The biggest problem is the misinformation that organizations like DARE throw about. Hell, some of my friends still argue with me that THC is a hallucinogen and has a biological basis for addiction.

Re:Legalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944401)

Well of course it can't be legalized, it's a gateway drug!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-asl9MfPT0 [youtube.com]

Re:Legalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944517)

I would argue that THC is a hallucinogen. I've seen stronger visuals after smoking pot than on any amount of LSD(and I've done more LSD in one sitting than probably anyone you will ever meet in your lifetime, even if you're an old hippie).

Addictive? No, I wouldn't say it's that. Fun, yes. Could I give it up if I wanted to? Absolutely, and I have when I needed to but now is not that time.

Re:Legalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944265)

As it gave a list of illegal (in some places at least) drugs there, I'm guessing they wouldn't care.

Re:Legalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28943985)

Is driving while impaired different enough from being unable to drive for any other reason for this argument to have any weight? Surely if someone is driving like a drunk idiot then they're still dangerous even if they aren't drunk.

Re:Legalization (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944013)

The main issue with all 'drug tests' is the constant problem with false positives due to OTC products and supplements..

As far as field testing for being 'impaired'? It's called a line walk. If you can walk a straight line, you can drive a straight line. The "No filed test' issue is pure BS, and everyone knows it.

Bad enough that the rabid prohibition group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or NAMBLA, has lobbied the legal BAL so low that I can't legally drive after eating a piece of my mother's rum cake.. Now I'll have to worry about a false positive for coke, meth, etc. if I take the wrong vitamin or supplement? To Hell with that.

'Land of the free' my hairy white pimple covered ass!

Re:Legalization (1)

RedK (112790) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944031)

I doubt very much that it was a roadblock in the first place. You have a lot of to do before drugs, especially harder drugs become legal for general consumption like Alcohol is. One of those being to convince all the "Think of the children" people like MADD to step back on some of their issues.

Re:Legalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944433)

It was absolutely _a_ roadblock, however you're correct that it's not _the_ roadblock.

Re:Legalization (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944065)

This could go a long way towards treating other drugs like alcohol for driving purposes. One of the major roadblocks in legalization was no field test for driving while impaired.

The sad thing is that the way alcohol is treated makes no sense. Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of accidents caused by drinking are caused by people with BACs of 0.15 or higher. Instead of paroling the roadways looking for these drivers (who are usually swerving all over the road -- how many times have you seen this with no police anywhere to be seen?) the police tend to sit outside bars and pull everybody over, looking for those who blow a hair over 0.08. These people are then arrested regardless of whether or not they show signs of actual impairment.

Then there's the loss of our civil liberties that go along with the war on drunk driving. Random police roadblocks, "implied consent" laws and the 21 drinking age all come to mind. The fact that my 19 year old brother can join the army but can't legally buy a beer is offensive the notion of free choice and liberty. I find the fact that I have to drive through a roadblock on my way home at night just because my house happens to be near a bar to be particularly insulting. We are treated as though we are guilty until proven innocent and that is not how things are supposed to work in the United States.

You also gotta love the interest groups that have sprung up around the issue. MADD has morphed over the years from an organization with a laudable enough goal (reduce drunk driving deaths) into a neo-prohibitionist organization that is waging a war on all drinking. If they had their way, booze would be taxed at a higher rate than tobbaco and every car sold in the US would have an ignition interlock system. The Founder of the organization left it sometime ago in disgust at what it has become.

Re:Legalization (5, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944309)

MADD has morphed over the years from an organization with a laudable enough goal (reduce drunk driving deaths) into a neo-prohibitionist organization that is waging a war on all drinking. If they had their way, booze would be taxed at a higher rate than tobbaco and every car sold in the US would have an ignition interlock system. The Founder of the organization left it sometime ago in disgust at what it has become.

This is a problem with interest groups in general. Most are formed with a specific goal in mind. However, they also employ people and generally give a lot of people a sense of belonging that they don't want to give up. So, once the goal they were created for is reached, they don't disband like they should. Instead, they just set new, generally more extreme goals, until they eventually degenerate into a fringe group of wackos. Unfortunately, the disproportionate political influence they gained from fighting for their earlier, more generally supported, cause is often maintained far longer than it ought to be, so many of their extremist garbage ends up being discussed, and even acted on by Congress, more than most people would like.

Re:Legalization (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944453)

Unfortunately, the disproportionate political influence they gained from fighting for their earlier, more generally supported, cause is often maintained far longer than it ought to be

MADD's political influence is maintained because coming out against drunk driving is about the easiest thing a politician can do to demonstrate that he "gets it" and is "thinking about the children". About the only thing that's more effective than pandering to MADD is passing more laws against "sex offenders".

Roaming offtopic here, but that's another issue that has gone way out of control. It started with the laudable goal of protecting our children from the real predators of the world (there actually are some....) and has since morphed into a system that forces a 17 year old to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life for having sex with his 16 year old girlfriend. WTF is wrong with that picture? Here's a novel idea: Lock up the real kiddie rapists for life and throw away the key (kinda renders all those discussions about registries a moot point, doesn't it?) and leave the poor 17 year old out of the criminal justice system.

Re:Legalization (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944599)

Mod parent up. You see this with every issue based group. Activist groups have to stay around to maintain their gains but to their donors and dues payers that looks like they aren't doing anything so they have to push for more and more to justify their existance. You end up with things like unions that demand bloated pensions and work requirements.

My father remembers that when March of Dimes met its goal of eliminating polio he said that they wouldn't go away now that their mission was met, that they would find something else. Sure enough, they did [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Legalization (-1, Flamebait)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944555)

These people are then arrested regardless of whether or not they show signs of actual impairment.

Good, they should be. Why? Because *they're breaking the fucking law*.

Now, you may not like the limits that have been put in place. That's fine. Maybe .08 is too low. Who knows. Although some level *must* be set ("actual impairment" is *far* too wishy-washy a definition, and IMHO would simply leave the law open to *more* abuse by law enforcement, not less). But if you drive with a BAC over the legal limit, whatever that limit is, then you're breaking the law and you deserve to be thrown in jail. Period.

Test for impairment, not specific drugs. (5, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944083)

Police could test actual impairment. Some years back I read about an impairment testing device for use in factories and heavy machinery. It's a simple LCD screen with a left-right joystick. A dot moves randomly to the left or the right on the screen, the user tries to keep it in the center using the joystick. If their reaction times are not impaired, the device unlocks the machinery. If they are, for whatever reason, like sleep deprivation, prescription medications, illegal drugs, or whatever, then the machinery remains locked. The police could test actual impairment rather than the presence of things that might or might not impair reactions. This would catch any sort of impairment which might endanger drivers and others on the road. For instance, studies have found that people with severe sleep apnea are about as likely to get in an accident as someone with a .1 BAC. If we are trying to protect people on the roads, rather than simply punish users of certain substances, this would be a fairer option.

Re:Test for impairment, not specific drugs. (1)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944143)

Hard to do in the field.

Re:Test for impairment, not specific drugs. (3, Informative)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944311)

They make a little thing that you hold up to your eye. It has a blinking LED. You press a button on the side when the light stops blinking. This tests your reaction time, and in some of the instances, instead of actually going solid, it is just flashing faster, so it also tests your perception. (If you are sleep deprived, drunk, etc, your perceptions slow down, and a blinking light will appear solid). It's smaller than a brethalizer.

Re:Test for impairment, not specific drugs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944563)

Why would it be hard to do? It sounds like a video game. Those have been portable for a long time now.

Were you thinking they'd have to bring the heavy factory equipment along? That's not what GP meant.

Re:Legalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944097)

Yeah, but illegal drug use, generally speaking, is rare, and when true positives are rare, the base-rate fallacy [schneier.com] takes over, so to speak.

Put another way: the test had better be EXTREMELY good and EXTREMELY specific, or it won't be even remotely useful.

Re:Legalization (3, Insightful)

Psyborgue (699890) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944121)

If there is no way to tell if a person is intoxicated by their behavior, what exactly is the problem? Is the person really intoxicated then?

Re:Legalization (3, Insightful)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944171)

Just because they can walk a straight line within the sensory limits of the officer doesn't mean there isn't a 5% or 10% reduction in reaction time that can be the difference between life and death in a car.

Then again being tired at the wheel is far more dangerous. There's just no good field test for that.

Re:Legalization (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944305)

But if it's within acceptable limits, what is the problem? You're also assuming that all illegal substances cause driving difficulty which is simply not the case

(in addition to that TV test, there have been actual studies in NL finding similar results as well).

Re:Legalization (4, Insightful)

ElSupreme (1217088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944337)

But even if they are experience a 5% to 10% reduction of reaction time they are 'acceptably' able to drive. There are some people who are much better at driving than others. Why should it be illegial for them to be driving at 90% their ability when they are still way better than most?

If there are NO signs of imparment then there should be no testing. Bad driving should be enforced, not arbitrary values like BAC and speed limits. The thing is it is easy to quantfy BAC (not accurately but easy to get a number) and speed limits. So thoes get enforced.

Re:Legalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944395)

There is a good field test. Unfortunately it requires a great many sheep and access to a fence.

Re:Legalization (5, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944153)

Not having a field test for marijuana isn't a reason that marijuana is still illegal. Hell if that was the reason it wouldn't be a schedule 1 drug, while Cocaine which is much much worse is only a schedule 2.

Honestly, I don't think there is a clear reasoning at this point why marijuana is illegal. It just is.

Re:Legalization (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944239)

Honestly, I don't think there is a clear reasoning at this point why marijuana is illegal. It just is.

Marijuana is bad, Mmkay? How much clearer than that can you get?

Re:Legalization (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944435)

Is bad is a pretty stupid reason to criminilize. Alochol is bad. Ciggaretes are bad. Skinny married women that pretend to be single to score some free drinks are bad. Companies that sell diamonds at an inflated price due to artificially created shortages are bad. And frankly, my cousins definitely does not fall on the right side of the Good line. Still not enough reason to pass a law against it, let alone a felony.

Re:Legalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944437)

Speeding is bad too - we should give all people caught speeding jail time.

Think of the children!

Re:Legalization (5, Insightful)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944167)

One of the major roadblocks in legalization was no field test for driving while impaired.

Yeah.. in addition to generations of fear-mongering and politicians without the cajones to appear "soft on crime".

Re:Legalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944529)

Drawers? [google.com]

Re:Legalization (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944211)

It doesn't measure intoxication, which is why I have such a severe problem with drug testing in general. Some guy likes to smoke a joint on Friday night, for the next month he'll test positive for marijuana, even though he's never never been high at work, while another guy stoned to the gills on prescription vicodin gets a free pass just because the vicodin is legal with a prescription.

I know some ignorant people who used to be pot smokers who are now addicted to crack cocaine because of drug testing. Pot use can be determined for a month, while the cheap tests employers use for cocaine can only detect that for three days. Knowing full well that they've been bullshitted by the government about pot, they figure that Nanny Government has been lying about crack, too. So they switch from pot to crack and wind up fired anyway, because they've become addicted and are smoking the stuff daily.

I'd like some of the anti-nanny state conservatives here to answer something - why are you guys so much in favor of antidrug laws? These are the worst of nanny state laws. Why should my employer have any say in anything that doesn't affect my job performance? Why should the government have any say over what I put in my body so long as it doesn't endanger anyone else? I'm against impaired driving, as that puts me at risk, but so long as you don't drive or go bow hunting while stoned it doesn't affect anyone.

And you "pro-choice" liberals, why is it OK to remove a fetus but not OK to insert a heroin syringe? Both camps seem pretty damned hypocritical to me.

Re:Legalization (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944359)

Some guy likes to smoke a joint on Friday night, for the next month he'll test positive for marijuana, even though he's never never been high at work

Most of the studies I've read suggest that the detection range is usually less than a month for the occasional smoker, though as with anything biological it can vary tremendously depending on your metabolism/diet/routine and other factors. It can be detected for a longer period of time in daily smokers though.

Knowing full well that they've been bullshitted by the government about pot, they figure that Nanny Government has been lying about crack, too. So they switch from pot to crack and wind up fired anyway, because they've become addicted and are smoking the stuff daily.

I don't have much sympathy for anyone who is that stupid. Unbiased information is out there -- there's no excuse in the information age for not finding it. Erowid [erowid.org] is a great resource and starting point.

Re:Legalization (2, Funny)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944273)

Frustrated total internal reflection (FTIR) - the same phenomenon that underlies fingerprint scanners and multitouch screens - is the used to measure a change to the refractive index.

Perhaps the Slashdot editors should use this device prior to posting an article to the main page. The again, what do I know?

Re:Legalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944465)

Except being COKED out of ones mind might actually not impair ones driving ability.

Tin Hat time! (1)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943817)

And then we'll have chips that do the same thing.

Oh, where is that tin hat of mine!

More expensive stuff... (2, Insightful)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943833)

...that we can ill-afford. I have a much better idea. Why not simply jail everyone from the get-go to save everyone time?

Re:More expensive stuff... (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943965)

And you think we can afford having more people in prison as opposed to spending more to make sure we better filter those who deserver to be in prison? Unless I'm mistaken, I think having fewer people in prison means more people paying taxes and less people getting fed on our buck.

Re:More expensive stuff... (2, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944003)

We only need to jail 536 people to save trillions.

Re:More expensive stuff... (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944193)

A plane goes down with Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid on board. Who is saved?



The American People!

Re:More expensive stuff... (1)

funkatron (912521) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944029)

Jail is too expensive. Use the chair (or the rope if you're feeling green).

Re:More expensive stuff... (1)

torkus (1133985) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944275)

Oddly it's more expensive to execute someone than to let them rot in jail for the rest of their life.

But after the debacle with the NY state government I've entirely given up hope. If it's OK to suspend the constitution over 'terrorism' how about we suspend it one last time over our government not acting in the interest of our country. Kill em all and let god* sort them out.

*or whatever deity you prefer. Atheists can sit smugly knowing no one else has to clean up their trash :)

Re:More expensive stuff... (0, Flamebait)

dhermann (648219) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944361)

I'm not getting you. Are you saying that we shouldn't be enforcing the laws that protect us because it's too expensive? Or we shouldn't be testing people for narcotics that would totally impair their ability to drive because our founding fathers came to this great land with the expectation that they could get high on smack in the privacy of their horse-drawn carraiges?

seriosuly... wh t fuck (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28943841)

what the fuck? [trollaxor.com]

If Phillips is smart, (2, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943859)

They should open the code and hardware specs to reduce the understandable suspicion we have of black box judicial devices [arstechnica.com] .

Re:If Phillips is smart, (0, Troll)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944511)

They should open the code

Oh, please don't tell me you've managed to turn a drug-testing device into a FOSS debate.

Is the source code available? (2, Interesting)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943867)

Requesting the source code worked in one breathalyzer case.

Well (4, Insightful)

i_liek_turtles (1110703) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943877)

Can this tell the difference between intoxication and merely having used said drug in the past couple of days? While cannabis may be illegal, a DUI should not be warranted if you happen to test positive, given the long time it's present in your bloodstream.

No it does not see the difference (5, Informative)

Proto23 (931154) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943953)

There has been some news here in the Netherlands about it and no it can't see whether you are under the influence or have used it in the last 24 hours or even days before depending on the drug. Most drug effect wear off after sleep and this machine won't know the difference. In the Netherlands this is such a big problem that drug prevention units like Trimbos are advising against its use as it will create more problems than solve. But maybe it works better in countries that prosecute users anyway.

Re:Well (1)

joeytmann (664434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943979)

If it can detect presence it more than likely can detect amounts also. So more than likely there will be differing levels of each to warrant a DUI. Being that it detect illegal substances penalties are more than likely going to be a bit stiffer and probably open you up to a visit from cops with warrants to search your house/work/car for drug paraphernalia.

Re:Well (1)

GeorgeS (11440) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944079)

It can detect the amount in the sample it tests! that does not mean it can see how much is actually in a persons system nor how that affects that person.

Re:Well (1)

joeytmann (664434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944209)

Breath-alyzers do exactly that. From the sample of alcohol in your breath it figures out the percentage in your blood stream, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breathalyzer#Law_enforcement [wikipedia.org] And just because someone can "handle it better" than others, doesn't make it ok.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944327)

Yes but alcohol is secreted through the lungs at a predictable rate... this may not be the same for saliva content, which may vary depending on kidney function and even dehydration.

And this is not a catch all; there are certain types of hallucinogens that are completely filtered from the blood stream before their effects even set in. I fail to see how a test that is neither comprehensive nor indicitave of impairment will be effective.

Now, it will have uses. People on probation/parole are not allowed to have drugs in their system, period. A saliva based test would be faster and tougher to beat than a urine or hair test.

Re:Well (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944415)

It can detect the amount in the sample it tests! that does not mean it can see how much is actually in a persons system

Breath-alyzers do exactly that. From the sample of alcohol in your breath it figures out the percentage in your blood stream

I suggest you read your own source more carefully, particularly the section titled "Common sources of error"...

One of the most common causes of falsely high breathalyzer readings is the existence of mouth alcohol. ... the breathalyzer's internal computer is making the assumption that the alcohol in the breath sample came from [the lungs] ... alcohol may have come from the mouth, throat or stomach for a number of reasons. ... a very tiny amount of alcohol from the mouth, throat or stomach can have a significant impact on the breath alcohol reading.

Other than recent drinking, the most common source of mouth alcohol is from belching or burping. ...

Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, can greatly exacerbate the mouth alcohol problem. ...

Mouth alcohol can also be created in other ways. Dentures, for example, will trap alcohol. Periodental disease can also create pockets in the gums which will contain the alcohol for longer periods. Also known to produce false results due to residual alcohol in the mouth is passionate kissing with an intoxicated person. And recent use of mouthwash or breath freshener—possibly to disguise the smell of alcohol when being pulled over by police

Re:Well (1)

Dirty Fool (1611901) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944047)

I have to agree that this new testing device might make for some tricky situations. Most current saliva based tests can detect for usage from the last 3 days to a week or so. I wonder what kind of detection window this new method has... I don't want to get a DUI for that J I smoked 2 days ago....

Re:Well (1)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944123)

'presence' is difference than 'enough to impair'.

I'm sure the presence will cause them to get warrants to search for drugs, but there would be thresholds (like current BAC levels) that determine impairment. The legal system is already set up to handle this one (though as always there will be lobbying on both sides as to where exactly to set those lines).

What about just being near drug users? (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944191)

If you go to a concert and end up close to someone smoking a joint, will this pick up the presence of cannabinoids in your saliva?

Re:What about just being near drug users? (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944561)

Only if you breathe during the concert.

Re:Well (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944371)

I don't believe that's fair. It has yet to be shown that cannabis causes driving impairment. There is evidence to the contrary in studies done in NL as well as this handy video [youtube.com] . The few people who indeed become "too stoned" to drive are not likely to be doing so... rather sitting on a couch somewhere. Weed does not make people overconfident like alcohol and "believe" they can drive when they can't. It's likely to do the opposite and make a person too paranoid to drive. I think it's a lot more fair to develop a way to test coordination and so forth (sort of like a field test, but more advanced).

Oh, my. (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943897)

Now highway cops will have these handy-dandy devices that will also detect legal drugs but will still try to arrest you for being "influenced".

If you're not having problems driving, communicating or making rational decisions then the drug isn't harmful, some people need things like amphetamines to be rational.

Maybe this is a fair weapon against irresponsible driving, but all I can see on the surface is another tool for abuse.

Re:Oh, my. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944403)

If I'm asked to take one of these tests I'll refuse on principle. They can force a roadside sobriety test (waling a straight line, touching your nose with your finger with eyes closed, making you take a breathylizer, etc) but they can't force this. It doesn't measure intoxication, and forcing it on people is clearly unconstitutional. When they develop a test that measures drug intoxication then they'll have something.

False Positives? (4, Interesting)

Banichi (1255242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943899)

Do they return false positives for people who eat poppy seed cake? http://www.snopes.com/medical/drugs/poppyseed.asp [snopes.com]

Re:False Positives? (3, Funny)

aztektum (170569) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944447)

if $suspect == WHITE_AFFLUENT
        return poppyseed_muffin
                else if $suspect == MINORITY or WHITE_TRASH
                        return beatdown_arrest
endif

Re:False Positives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944523)

That all comes down to whether or not the device can detect only traces of substances, or actual ammounts. If it flags you for just a trace, you're screwed. (And this wouldn't be a false postive at all, the white latex on poppy seeds does contain opiods, so technically the machine was doing it's job. Whether or not the officer will do their job, and make the judgement call on whether you're inebriated or not...well that's a different story.)

If the devices could actually put readings on a scale (like the ammt. of cc's of heroin in the blood stream, etc) it would probably be OK. You wouldn't get flagged for eating a poppy bagel, or hanging out with friends who've just smoked weed. But if it just picks up a trace and then alerts the officer...I think a lot of people could get fucked over, including myself.

Another thing about this is that if you get pulled over for driving badly, and you pass a field sobriety test...then what the hell? Either the officer should throw you in the back of the squad car for being intoxicated and unable to drive, or write you a ticket and have you on your way. It's not like you actually NEED a device to tell you if somone's under the influcence...especially for the drugs forementioned. Amphetamines and Cocaine are pretty easy to spot off. Cannabis, usually isn't hard to spot either. Heroin's a trickier one, but would it be worth all this money just to catch a junkie driving intoxicated? Not to mention many people who are high *CAN* still drive just as well as they can sober, if not better.
I have a feeling this would become a tool to use during random stops, just to catch a few people who were otherwise driving perfectly fine.

Don't get me wrong, driving under any kind of influence is dangerous, not just for the user, but for any passangers and for other drivers/pedestrians. However, a test like this would be ineffective.

Not to mention that it doesn't test for some of the more dangerous substances to be under the influence of while driving...
Ever try to drive down a highway after you've taken LSD? That won't show up on the test. Chances are Dextromethorphan won't either.

It just seems like a waste of money, and while I'd love to side with the poster that suggested this might be a good push towards the legalization of cannabis, I think it would push back cannabis legalization by a long shot.

You really can't quantify intoxication. Whether it's by BAC, or whatever system they come up with next. When it comes down to it, you're either fucked up, or you're not.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents of Anonymous Cowardice.

Bill Hicks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28943921)

See, I think drugs have done some *good* things for us, I really do. And if you don't believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor: go home tonight and take all your albums, all your tapes, and all your cd's and burn em'. 'Cause you know what? The musicians who've made all that great music that's enhanced your lives throughout the years... Rrrrrrrrrrrrreal ------ high on drugs."

"Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. That we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the weather."

"It's not a war on drugs, it's a war on personal freedom, itÂs what it is ok?. Keep that in mind at all times. Thank you!"

-- Bill Hicks

More hand-held medical devices (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943945)

This is promising. We need more and better hand-held medical devices. Medical technology tends to be bulky, and as it is downsized, it can be deployed more freely.

A friend of mine is a horse veterinarian, and she's always looking for devices that can be used in the field. Vets sometimes get new gear before human doctors do, because it can be deployed for animal use while it's still in clinical testing for humans. She already has compact X-ray gear which displays on a laptop; that was a big advance. She's had portable ultrasound gear for a decade or more. Field tests on blood, though, are still in their infancy.

The drug-test device, though, is testing for simple compounds. That's easier than most medical tests.

No I won't spit in your dam cup... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28943947)

With the successful campaign to free up breathalyser source code [slashdot.org] how long before this is challenged and the science behind it questioned? Before or after multiple convictions?

Can being at the party and kissing the babe with the razor blade be sufficient to get traces in your saliva?

Because we can, should we?

Inconclusive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28943973)

Cocain? Really officer? Man I thought it was kind of odd how my tounge would go numb when I was making out with that girl I just dropped off.

No you cannot search the car.
Am I free to go?
Can I call my lawyer before I answer that?

Re:Inconclusive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28943999)

No. You're fucked.

Re:Inconclusive. (0, Troll)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944127)

Sorry, but slaves don't have rights.

Waste of money (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944009)

I knew a guy in college who could smell weed from miles away. No matter where you were, if you broke out a joint, he would magically show up within minutes. Hiring guys like that has to be cheaper than these devices.

Re:Waste of money (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944339)

Actually, the dogs are cheaper. It's not illegal to have traces of ANY drug in your system; being intoxicated while driving is. This neither tests for intoxication nor indicates the possession of any drugs.

This technology is useless, except for propaganda purposes.

Re:Waste of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944457)

It's not quite useless. There are many places where urine tests for drugs are used, and a device like this could be faster and potentially cheaper than a lab test.

I agree it is useless as a means of identifying impairment, but it can still detect the presence of drugs, which is still a useful function (probation, businesses with drug policies, etc.)

and out come (1)

alexborges (313924) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944011)

... the mezca freaks from all over
the salvia kids
the morning thunder crew

minds cannot be tied or chained

Great... more things to spend tax dollars on.... (5, Insightful)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944025)

... so our government can keep being at 'war' with us.

Drugs are a social health problem, not a criminal problem. Sadly our representatives and much of our populous lacks the maturity or the foresight to acknowledge this difference --- and thus the current moralist/criminalist approach leads to filled prisons and fines that leave us wondering why we're all such bad people.

Wake up -- curiosity and susceptibility are not bad things. Given the change in availability and removal of black markets, most drugs only impact the individual -- and for 'other crimes' that people may commit on drugs, those acts are still criminal. Example: in a meth legal world, the addict is not treated like a criminal, but if she neglects her child she can still be held responsible for that neglect.

Like I said, drugs are a health issue.

Re:Great... more things to spend tax dollars on... (1)

OrangeMonkey11 (1553753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944317)

The sad part is all this will never change until the out dated closed minded ruling generations dies out.

Re:Great... more things to spend tax dollars on... (0, Troll)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944493)

... so our government can keep being at 'war' with us.

Umm, quite the contrary, actually. One of the excuses I've heard for refusing to decriminalize or flat out legalize various drugs is because they can't be easily detected in a roadside test. See, if you're trying to nail a drunk driver, you've got the breathalizer. It's easy, then, to tell if a person is intoxicated while driving, and it provides solid evidence in a court case. But with recreational drugs, no such test has existed, up until this point. Instead, they had to drag you down to the station and you had to submit to a blood test, at which point the drug may have metabolized, rendering the results useless.

But with this release, suddenly that objection no longer exists. Now, the police have a reliable method for determining if an individual is driving while intoxicated on these other substances.

Frankly, I can't see how this can be anything but a *good* thing. Driving while intoxicated, no matter what the substance, is a dangerous, and frankly really *stupid* fucking thing to do. If the cops have tools to catch the morons who do it, then maybe people will become less concerned with the spectre of people driving stoned and running down their dear old granny down the street.

Simple Economics (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944519)

When the economy gets so bad that we have to choose between spending to arrest and incarcerate rapists and murderers vs some guy lighting up a doobie at a concert, things might change.

Re:Great... more things to spend tax dollars on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944549)

Sadly our representatives and much of our populous lacks the maturity or the foresight to acknowledge this difference

I reckon it's got more to do with the billions of dollars per year that drug prohibition pulls through the business of government. The people at the top of the power pyramid could care less about your health or "morality" -- they simply want your money, and recreational drug use just happens to make an excellent boogie-man.

Re:Great... more things to spend tax dollars on... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944551)

I'd agree with most of your points but disagree that it's a health issue. That implies that somehow compulsive drug use is a disease, a person is not responsible for their actions, and thus they should be treated differently. I think that all drugs should be legalized yes, but I disagree with either court ordered treatment or treatment as an option. I think it's a "cop out" and actually gives an incentive to people who commit crimes to do so while intoxicated. Drug use is a personal choice and one that I think is completely irrelevant to one's actions. People shouldn't be judged for it or let off the hook because of it. Judge people by their actions and not what is in their bodies.

how long until we see funding requests? (1)

fl!ptop (902193) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944081)

i've been participating in the transparencycorps project [slashdot.org] , and have been amused at seeing all the requests by representatives for this or that device for police departments all over the country. how long before we start seeing requests for this device too?

Re:how long until we see funding requests? (1)

OrangeMonkey11 (1553753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944439)

The government might as well just flush our tax dollars down the toilet because all of these so call solutions for the war on drugs is not getting us anywhere; all this money could go to proper programs that such as health care and better educations, but instead the government just spend the time and our money fighting an imaginary enemy.

It's not criminal everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944091)

I'm curious about those of us who live next to areas where it's been decriminalized (i.e. Canada). Theoretically I can go to Canada, light up, and come back; as long as I'm not 'under the influence' I have not committed any crimes.

I'm cynically assuming, however, that the point of detecting trace elements is a 'guilty until proven innocent' policy: since it's illegal in the US, it must be illegal everywhere and you're a criminal to have any of it in your blood stream.

Re:It's not criminal everywhere (1)

Samalie (1016193) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944227)

I regret to inform you that Canada has NOT decriminalized the posession or use of cannibis.

The cops here may not arrest you for it, but I can assure you that it IS still illegal, and in theory you could be prosecuted and jailed for it.

Its just a photo of a dog in a cap and glasses... (4, Funny)

Kenja (541830) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944095)

Its just a photo of a dog in a baseball cap and sunglasses, if you totally think he looks like he could drive a truck, you failed the test.

Well it was fun while it lasted (4, Funny)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944117)

So much for making out with crack whores.

out comes.... (0, Redundant)

alexborges (313924) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944129)

the mezca freaks.....

all over again

Poppy seed resistant? (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944161)

As has been shown time and time again (including by the Mythbusters) eating poppy seed bread can set off a false positive. How sensitive is this thing? I.e. will it discard anything below a certain level or just flag you for the tiniest amount of opiates (I think it's opiates in the poppy seeds)?

Consequences (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944281)

This will probably prompt some zero tolerance laws--any illegal drugs in your system when driving, and you are guilty. I expect that such a law would pass constitutional muster, but there would be challenges.

Law enforcement will want to jump immediately on this stuff. The big expense with this kind of thing is not buying the units and training the users and maintainers--the big expense is the inevitable war of legal challenges that will result. If the manufacturer will not fully expose its schematics and software, then law enforcement should pass on this. Full transparency from the beginning is the only way to keep litigation costs down.

This technology changes, too. Each little change in the hardware or the software can bring a new slew of expensive legal challenges. You want a system that you can live with for a long time, because change is sooo expensive.

This technology is great, but it should be implemented very deliberately.

Cheech and Chong (2, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944283)

State trooper: Do you have any illicit substance on you?
Cheech: Not anymore, hehehe.

The Larger Issue Here Is This: Why are we (4, Insightful)

Dr_Ken (1163339) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944307)

... letting the "war on drugs" police-prison-industrial complex beat us into the ground (i.e., take away all vestiges of privacy, personal choice, and/or any sense of pleasure) with its ever advancing technology? We should just end the WOD already? It ain't nobody's business what drugs/substances I use, drink, smoke or eat if if it doesn't harm anyone else. We need to declare an end to this Nixon era nightmare so we can empty out the prisons, give cops something more productive to do and increase our revenues by taxing the dopers to recoup what we can from their vices. Drug abuse is a medical problem not a PPI one. So let's treat it that way before the PPI's tax subsidized techno mavens create a total (but drug free!) police state for us to live. (End of rant)

Re:The Larger Issue Here Is This: Why are we (2, Interesting)

dhermann (648219) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944467)

It ain't nobody's business what drugs/substances I use, drink, smoke or eat if if it doesn't harm anyone else.

So driving while lit up on three tabs of meth shouldn't be illegal unless you actually get into an accident?

Sooooooooo..... (1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944351)

LSD's alright then? Trippy!

Developed for Dutch law enforcement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28944369)

Sadly, this device was developed for Dutch law enforcement who wish to instate a zero-tolerance policy on drugged driving. Fortunately, because tests have shown these tests also return positive results for drivers who used drugs in the previous says are not currently impaired, implementation has been delayed. This is especially disturbing because cannabis use here is tolerated. Yet, police still desire to prevent all drug users from driving even those who do not drive impaired.

accuracy? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944491)

Is there a surprise that there is absolutely no mention of the accuracy of this product? Sure, it tests for a bunch of drugs, but there's no comment if there will be false positives like we've seen with the breathalyzers.

Does anyone who knows better than I, have the capability of making a comment on this? Will this be another one of those things that shows the wrong result just because you had a poppyseed bagel for breakfast, etc?

Tiredness Test (3, Insightful)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944495)

Personally I'd much rather see a test for melatonin levels than any narcotic. Driving while tired is much more common and more hence likely to cause accidents than drug use I think.

System could be tricked (1)

realsilly (186931) | more than 5 years ago | (#28944545)

If police wanted to frame someone with that device, it would easy enough to do, by the officer having a stash of coccane in their patrol car, and if they wanted to bust someone, create a solution of saliva (spit) mixed with drugs and dip the mouth piece onto the machine. It would be all too easy to do.

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