Drug swabs used by Monaco police

Monaco police now have a new tool in their arsenal against driving whilst under the influence. In addition to alcohol controls, they have a new saliva swab that can be used to detect the presence of a variety of drugs in a person’s system.

With the single use mouth swab, officers can see if a person has taken any drugs, such as cannabis, opiates, methamphetamines or ecstasy, in a matter of minutes.

If there are traces of any narcotic substances on the driver’s swab, a more formal procedure then takes place, starting with the transfer of the driver to the Princess Grace Hospital where they will receive a blood test. The blood sample will be sent to Nice for analysis to further confirm the earlier result and after this, a formal charge can be brought if drugs are indeed detected.

Screenings such as this can be legally carried out by police who note certain tell-tale signs in a driver, such as bloodshot eyes, incoherent speech or dangerous or erratic driving.

The protocol is adapted to ensure safety for both police and driver under current health statutes.

“This is identical to the blood alcohol control procedure,” Commander Fabien Vachetta, head of the Division of Events and Preservation of the Living Environment told Monaco Matin. “The officers are masked and gloved, and the sample is taken with outstretched arms, while respecting the physical distancing necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Since the implementation of a new Monegasque law in November 2019, judges have been given the freedom to “personalise” sentences for those who come before them. This does not mean that judges can arbitrarily hand out inconsistent sentencing for the same crime, but it means that first-time offenders, for example, could receive a different sentence than repeat offenders.

The law on drugs in the Principality are fairly strict and clear cut though, stating the perpetrator “is punished by imprisonment from one to six months and a fine provided for in paragraph 2 of article 26 [from €2,250 to €9,000] or one of these two penalties only, the one who will have driven a vehicle while using substances or plants classified as narcotics.”

In addition to the above, it is also possible that offenders can lose their driving privileges for two or more years or lose their licenses outright, without the possibility to reapply for five years. For unlicenced drivers, they may not be able to apply for one for a period of five years at most, and for foreign drivers, a ban on driving in the Principality which can last up to five years. Drivers with suspended licenses can count on an additional five year extension to the suspension.

It is also possible that a convicted person’s car can be impounded for up to six months.

Clearly, Monaco is heavily discouraging driving under the influence within its borders with the new test. Drug users would do well to take heed.

Photo source: Pixabay