Dec

27

More Cities Demand Blood Tests for Suspected Drunk Drivers

By Mike

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.

Sep

28

Police Force Sober Teenager to Take Breathalyzer Test

By Mike

By

Breathalyzers are typically used at traffic stops when police suspect that someone has been driving under the influence of alcohol. Rarely, though, are breathalyzers used on young people who are not driving.

A 13-year-old boy, however recently discovered that police have several applications for breathalyzers, which are simple devices used to detect a person’s blood alcohol content.

According to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against police in Livonia, Michigan after the police allegedly forced a teenager to take an alcohol breath test while on a school field trip.

At the time of the incident, the boy and his classmates were on a field trip celebrating their eighth grade graduation at Livonia’s Rotary Park.

The ACLU lawsuit alleges that the boy and his friends had walked into nearby woods for a brief walk when an assistant principal, who had followed them into the woods, found them and accused them of drinking alcohol.

The assistant principal based his allegation on a liquor bottle that was found near the boys, though they claimed it did not belong to them and that they had not been drinking.

When the police arrived, they forced the students to take a Breathalyzer test. To the embarrassment of school officials and the officers, each boy blew a 0.0, proving that they had not had alcohol.

The boy’s lawsuit focuses on the officers’ breach of his Fourth Amendment right to not be subjected to an unlawful search. The Fourth Amendment is designed to protect innocent people from obtrusive searches by the police.

According to the ACLU, federal and state courts have ruled police officers must have a search warrant to administer a breathalyzer test to someone who is not driving.

The lawsuit also claims that, not only did the police officers not have a warrant to lawfully administer the blood alcohol test, they also did not have any probable cause of wrongdoing that might have given them a reason to pursue a search warrant in the first place.

As the lawsuit stated, “[w]hen there is no evidence that a child has done anything wrong, he should never be subjected to this degrading and embarrassing procedure in front of his teachers and peers.”

As mentioned above, these types of situations are relatively uncommon. Breathalyzer tests are usually given to adult drivers when they are suspected of driving under the influence.

Even under these circumstances, however, breathalyzer tests are not infallible. In addition to the tests’ potential for making mistakes, police must also follow a strict set of guidelines when they give BAC tests.

If these police fail to follow proper procedures, or the results of the BAC test are unreliable, a DUI lawyer may help a person arrested for a DUI fight the charges.