Newsbrief: World's First Random Drug Test of Drivers Results in World's First Random Drugged Driver Bust and Threat of World's First Lawsuit Against the Practice 12/17/04

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The world's first program to randomly drug test drivers got underway in the Australian state of Victoria Monday, and it scored its first victim within 15 minutes, according to Australian press reports. Under the experimental program, police can stop motorists at will and force them to submit to a saliva test for cannabis and methamphetamines. Those found with the drugs in their systems will be fined in a scheme parallel to drunk driving punishments. But unlike drunk driving laws, which set a limit above which the driver is presumed to be impaired, the drugged driving campaign punishes drivers for having any amount of the drugs in question in their systems, whether or not impairment is proven.

The fourth driver tested in metropolitan Melbourne, 39-year-old John De Jong, tested positive for both methamphetamines and marijuana and was cited. A positive test result is forwarded to a laboratory for confirmation. If the lab confirms the positive result, De Jong will be fined $228.

De Jong, who claimed he had not smoked pot for more than a month, was not happy, and neither was his attorney. "My client's rights have clearly been violated," said Solicitor Katalin Blond. "He's arrived home from work to find his children and family in tears, having seen his face plastered across the television," she told ABC Radio. De Jong is considering bringing lawsuits for defamation and breach of privacy, she added.

Of 32 drivers randomly tested Monday, De Jong was the only one to return a positive result, Victoria police said. But there will be more. Police said they plan to test 9,000 drivers in the state during the next year. They will target trucking corridors and "areas known for rave parties," a police spokesman told the publication The Age.

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Issue #367 -- 12/17/04

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