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New Year's Eve: LAPD checkpoints to debut drug detecting cheek swabs

by AirTalk®

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North Miami Beach police officers conduct a field sobriety test on a driver during a DUI checkpoint on May 23, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The LAPD will begin administering voluntary cheek swabs that detect drug and alcohol levels at their DUI checkpoints on New Year’s Eve.

Sobriety checkpoints have traditionally included tests to determine whether drivers have consumed alcohol, including breathalyzers, but the new cheek swabs also pick up on drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy.

Different drugs can be detected by a cheek swab after various amounts of time. Cocaine and marijuana are traceable for up to 24 hours, ecstasy and meth for three days, and alcohol for just 12 hours.

Drivers stopped at DUI checkpoints may be asked to take the oral swab test, but can refuse. If the police suspect the driver to be intoxicated and arrest them, drivers can still refuse testing and have their license suspended for 12 months, otherwise a blood test would be administered to test for drug and alcohol levels.

Are voluntary cheek swabs effective ways to measure sobriety? Are they fair? Should the LAPD use this kind of test at DUI checkpoints? What’s the best way to handle a request to take an oral swab?


Stephanie Arrache, Criminal Defense Attorney

Commander Andrew Smith, Commanding Officer, Media Relations and Community Affairs Group, Los Angeles Police Department

Tony Stein,  president and technical director of “Safety Research Associates” based in La Cañada, which does research on driving under the influence of pot and alcohol, among other things.

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