New device to help Indiana law enforcement identify drug-impaired drivers

Local News

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – A new device will help Indiana law enforcement identify impaired drivers. It’s called the SoToxa mobile test system and it has the ability to detect a variety of drugs.

Vigo County Sheriff John Plasse says testing drivers under the influence of alcohol is commonplace for law enforcement; however, determining if a person has consumed other substances can be more difficult.

“There’s times we have somebody we pulled over and they were impaired, there was just no doubt it, we ran them on the PBT and it’s zero. Well like, something’s going on here, we just don’t know what it is,” Plasse said.

A new device may change that. The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute has provided 52 law enforcement agencies with a resource known as the SoToxa mobile test system.

Through an oral swab, the system can tell if a driver is under the influence of drugs such as cannabis, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

“We never had anything like this to detect drugs in the field. Never, this is the first,” Plasse said.

The Vermillion County Sheriff’s Office says it recently put the SoToxa system to use. According to a deputy, drug impairment is an issue the county is seeing.

“It’s really become a big problem. I know here in Vermillion County, we probably do more drug impairment arrests than we do alcohol,” said deputy Chad Hennis, Vermillion County Sheriff’s Office.

Hennis says in the short time utilizing the new system the Vermillion County Sheriff’s Office has found impaired drivers on the road.

“I got called out to a traffic stop last week, and the person agreed to take the test and tested positive for cannabis,” Hennis said.

After then agreeing to a blood test, Hennis says this person was arrested for operating while intoxicated.

Sheriff Plasse says while the SoToxa system helps law enforcement with their job, it ultimately makes the streets safer for the community.

“The good thing is, it helps us keep impaired drivers off the streets. It’s a great tool to have and once we get trained on it, we’ll have it out there,” Plasse said.

Hennis says there are plans to purchase an additional SoToxa system for the Vermillion County Sheriff’s office and one for the Clinton City Police.

According to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, a person must consent to receiving the SoToxa test and it cannot be used as evidence in court. However, it can be used to help establish probable cause, which can be used by an officer to make an arrest, administer a certified breath test, take the suspect for medical treatment or apply for a warrant to administer a blood draw.

The institute also says Indiana joins Michigan as the only states to distribute the SoToxa mobile test system statewide.

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