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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mandatory DWI Blood Draws In Texas

Texas will continue and expand its mandatory drawing of blood in DWI cases, whether the suspect consents to the procedure or not. From The Star-Telegram:

    A Fourth of July weekend operation that made it easier for police to draw blood from suspected drunken drivers may be a glimpse of things to come.

    State lawmakers have expanded the types of cases requiring mandatory blood draws without a search warrant. Cases included starting Sept. 1 are felony DWI cases, suspected drunken-driving accidents where someone is injured and transported for medical treatment and cases when a person is arrested on suspicion of drunken driving with a child younger than 15 in the vehicle.

    Previously, the law only required a mandatory blood draw when a person was arrested on suspicion of intoxication manslaughter, or suspected of being over the legal 0.08 percent limit and an accident victim was expected to die.


    But police are unsure where they will take those people arrested who need blood drawn after Sept. 1, or how they will pay for the additional mandatory blood draws and the additional laboratory costs.


    Still some police say they welcome the changes in the law because it will allow them to collect blood evidence in certain cases without a search warrant.

I don't know about you, but the only person I want drawing blood from me is someone who is medically trained to do it. Not some cop, no offense to cops.

Here's a frightening story from March, 2004 Prison Planet:

    BROOKFIELD, Wis. -- After police stopped Robert H. Miller for driving erratically here one afternoon in February 2001, they asked for his license and registration.

    Then they asked for something else: his blood. Having been convicted of drunk driving once before, Mr. Miller refused to cooperate. So after he was taken to a hospital, five officers pinned him to the floor as a medical technician stuck a needle in his arm. His blood-alcohol level was 0.266% -- more than twice the legal limit. Mr. Miller, who declined to comment, challenged the tactic in court but lost. He pleaded no contest, was sentenced to up to 90 days in jail and lost his license for 18 months.

    In the past, police routinely asked suspected drunk drivers to blow into devices that extrapolated their blood's alcohol content from their breath. Now, authorities in most states are taking blood, by force if necessary.

    "I've really pushed it," says John O'Boyle, district attorney of Pierce County, Wis. Lawyers sometimes successfully challenge breath tests in court or persuade juries to doubt them, but "blood tests tend to be pretty bulletproof," Mr. O'Boyle says. Moreover, it's impossible to force a breath test on someone, but taking blood requires no cooperation. "If we have to literally strap you down if you refuse, that's what can happen to you," says Lt. Tony Almaraz, a Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman.

    Advocates say blood tests, once seldom used, now are a powerful weapon against drunk driving. But the tests raise two nettlesome questions: How much force should police be able to use in extracting blood from uncooperative suspects? And should medical professionals, who are honor-bound to obey patients' treatment wishes and protect their privacy, be compelled to do otherwise?


    Critics of the practice see a threat to privacy and civil liberties, with judges in Rhode Island, New Jersey and Wisconsin barring, limiting or questioning the practice in recent years. In Pennsylvania, the state police say they don't take blood if a driver refuses, but might if the driver is unconscious.


    Some physicians are alarmed when doctors or those working for them draw blood for police without consent. The doctors argue that the Hippocratic Oath requires them to put patients' needs and desires first and to respect their privacy and decisions to decline medical procedures. The American College of Emergency Physicians said in 1998 that it opposes requiring or permitting doctors to give blood-test results to police "because such reporting fundamentally conflicts with the appropriate role of physicians in the physician-patient relationship."

    "For me to draw blood from a patient who is refusing to have his blood drawn, unless I have compelling medical reasons for that blood sample, I'm committing assault and battery, and I'm not going to do it," says Dr. Phil Brewer, president of the Connecticut College of Emergency Physicians and a fellow at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Another incredible story (for me it is) is one from DUI Blog, where a suspect was forced to undergo a catheter for a forced urine sample:

    Kelso, Wa. March 4 – When a man who was suspected of drunken driving in Longview refused to give blood and urine samples he was taken to a hospital.

    His lawyer says he was held down kicking and screaming for a blood draw. And a tube was inserted into his bladder to withdraw the urine.

    He sued Cowlitz County. A settlement was reached Friday in which he was paid $15,000, without authorities admitting they did anything wrong…

I certainly don't condone driving while intoxicated. But I have to side with the civil libertarians and the ACLU on this issue. Forced blood sampling and a forced catheter are beyond reasonable force.

What do you think?

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