Highlighting a trend that has grown more common across the United States, several cities in Texas are deciding to force suspected DUI drivers to take blood tests if they refuse to take the less-invasive breathalyzer tests.
The controversial practice—known as “no refusal” testing because suspected drunk drivers cannot refuse the blood tests—has also taken hold in several other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Illinois.
According to a recent report from Fox News, the practice has also upset many civil rights attorneys, who argue that forcing suspected drunk drivers to take a blood test amounts to a violation of their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure.
Of course, police departments strongly defend the practice. And the courts seem to think it is fine, as well. In Texas, for example, the court system has uniformly supported police officers’ rights to administer the blood tests, even if the defendant refuses.
Typically, people who are pulled over for a DUI are offered a breathalyzer test, which simply involves blowing into an instrument that provides a rough estimate of the person’s level of intoxication.
Suspected drunk drivers, though, are often not keen on taking the breath test, and some criminal defense experts recommend that drivers avoid them altogether in certain states.
The new policy used by Texas police officers, however, will thwart drivers’ attempts to circumvent the law. The biggest downside, though is that it requires the forceful pricking of a person’s finger to obtain accurate results.
Despite the invasiveness of the procedure and the complaints from civil rights attorneys, police departments often prefer the blood test to a breath test because the blood test often offers more convincing evidence at trial.
Sources indicate that prosecutors across the country find that blood tests help them win DUI convictions in almost 90 percent of their drunk driving cases. And this reality often drives DUI suspects to plead guilty to the charges before a trial even starts.
So, the blood tests appear to offer overwhelming evidence of a person’s level of intoxication, and they are often administered without the driver’s permission. Because of these realities, mandatory blood tests appear to be very bad news for drunk drivers.
Of course, police admit that they would also have mandatory breath tests if it wasn’t so difficult to force someone to blow in a tube (in contrast, it’s much easier to stick someone’s finger with a needle without that person’s permission).
Alas, the police are left without only one mandatory form of blood alcohol testing, although it appears to be a very valuable one.
And as more and more jurisdictions embrace the use of “no-refusal” testing, suspected DUI drivers may continue to see an erosion of their right to privacy. The question remains, though, whether this erosion of privacy is worth the benefit to public health of keeping more drunk drivers off the road.