Texans arrested for drunk driving this holiday season who refuse to take a breathalyzer test may have to submit to a blood test.
According to The Wall Street Journal, many cities and counties in Texas have instituted the blood-test policy, which is also in place in other states including Florida, Missouri, Illinois and Louisiana. Law enforcement officials call the policy “no refusal,” because it prevents drivers from refusing to provide evidence they are intoxicated.
Evidence of intoxication from a blood test often wins convictions in jury trials, the article notes. In many cases, defendants who are faced with evidence from blood tests admit their guilt.
Criminal defense lawyers have objected to the blood tests. “It’s an erosion of civil liberties,” said Samuel Bassett, a defense lawyer from Austin. “If we can poke people involuntarily for evidence, where do we draw the line?”
Under the no-refusal initiatives, magistrate judges are standing by at a police station or other location to issue search warrants needed to conduct the blood tests. A nurse or other medical professional draws the blood. Police are allowed to strap a suspect to a chair if needed to obtain a blood sample, so blood can be drawn quickly, before a person’s blood-alcohol level drops.
Some police officers find the new rule encourages people to submit to breath tests, to avoid being poked with a needle.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2010 about 800 traffic deaths in the state involved a legally intoxicated driver. In 2009, more drivers were involved in fatal alcohol-related crashes in Texas than in any other state, according to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.