Coming soon to a neighborhood near you…
Police Draw Blood from DUI Suspects
Federal program tries roadside tests in Idaho, Texas
Boise, ID. Sept. 14 — When police officer Darryll Dowell is on patrol in the southwestern Idaho city of Nampa, he’ll pull up at a stoplight and usually start casing the vehicle. Nowadays, his eyes will also focus on the driver’s arms, as he tries to search for a plump, bouncy vein.
"I was looking at people’s arms and hands, thinking, ‘I could draw from that,’" Dowell said.
It’s all part of training he and a select cadre of officers in Idaho and Texas have received in recent months to draw blood from those suspected of drunken or drugged driving. The federal program’s aim is to determine if blood draws by cops can be an effective tool against drunken drivers and aid in their prosecution.
If the results seem promising after a year or two, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will encourage police nationwide to undergo similar training.
For years, defense attorneys in Idaho advised clients to always refuse breath tests, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Christine Starr said. Starr hopes the new system will cut down on the number of drunken driving trials. Officers can’t hold down a suspect and force them to breath into a tube, she noted, but they can forcefully take blood — a practice that’s been upheld by Idaho’s Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
The practice of cops drawing blood, implemented first in 1995 in Arizona, has also raised concerns about safety and the credibility of the evidence.
"I would imagine that a lot of people would be wary of having their blood drawn by an officer on the hood of their police vehicle," said Steve Oberman, chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ DUI Committee.
Actually, Ms. Starr, the U.S. Supreme Court authorized forced blood draws only if they are done in a "medically approved manner" — and no mention was ever made of cops doing the drawing. Somehow, I don’t think the Court would view cops jamming needles into suspects spread across the hood of a car as "medically approved".
(Thanks to David O’Shea.)