Screening of drivers for being under the influence of drugs will start after the summer as the long-delayed equipment needed is on its way, the state lab confirmed on Tuesday.
The bulk of the items have now been ordered after court proceedings delayed their purchase since carrying out the test was passed in February last year.
“We had a choice of three companies from which to buy the equipment. After looking into it we found that the two cheaper ones didn’t meet the specifications,” Maria Afxentiou from the lab explained. “We decided to buy from the expensive one but the other two went to court and the court proceedings delayed us. Finally they had to admit we were right and all the paperwork was correct.”
What remains is to finalise a tender for a screen tester for saliva and some other screening devices, something that will be done soon, she added. In one month the necessary structure is expected to be in place. By the end of June personnel training will be completed, and by September or October the lab will be ready to receive the first samples from police.
Drivers will be subjected to a preliminary saliva screening test, which takes around two minutes and if positive, they will undergo a second saliva test to detect what drugs had been used.
The analysis of the second test at the state lab takes a few days.
The ‘narcotest’ can detect all types of substances, including cannabis, cocaine, heroin and amphetamines.
Offenders face a fine of €3,500, three-year imprisonment, three to six penalty points on their driving licence and the suspension of the licence for up to three years. People who refuse to provide a sample of saliva for testing are also subject to the same penalties.
The law was passed last February by a majority vote. 29 MPs voted for it, 15 against and there was one abstention. Akel supporters at the time voted against it as they consider that police shouldn’t just have the right to stop any driver under any circumstances and giving saliva impinges on civil liberties.