Suspected drunk drivers who refuse to take a Breathalyzer test might soon be required to have their blood tested for alcohol on the spot.
County Attorney Bill Moore will meet with all Johnson County law enforcement agencies on Wednesday to discuss implementing a plan to cut down on drunk driving.
The plan would require a blood test for suspected drunk drivers who refuse to take Breathalyzer tests. Law enforcement officials would have the authority to do a blood test through a search warrant issued by a local magistrate.
“Local law enforcement agencies have voiced support of using search warrants for blood to enforce the driving while intoxicated laws,” Moore said in a press release.
The goal is to develop standard procedures for implementing the blood-testing plan legally on a countywide basis, he said.
“Recently the Burleson Police Department implemented a policy of mandatory search warrants for blood for all DWI refusals,” Moore said in a press release. “Under this policy, if a DWI suspect refuses to provide a breath specimen, the police officer obtains a search warrant for blood from a magistrate. A specimen of blood is taken from the suspect that will be tested to determine the alcohol concentration of the suspect’s blood.”
Moore spoke with the Johnson County commissioners Tuesday during a meeting. Commissioners indicated support for Moore’s plan to institute a magistrate search warrant policy countywide.
“That, I think, is going to be a big step in getting people off the road and getting a conviction,” said County Judge Roger Harmon.
“This is a win-win situation,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Beeson.
The program might also help cut down on DWI caseloads in local courts.
“If you’ve got good evidence, you don’t go to trial,” Moore said.
If a DWI suspect has a blood alcohol level higher than the legal limit and it’s been verified by a blood or Breathalyzer test, the suspect is less likely to want to go to court, Moore said.
“Five hundred and ninety misdemeanor driving while intoxicated cases were filed in Johnson County last year,” Moore said. “Probably 50 percent or more are refusal cases.”
Refusal cases are much harder to prosecute, he said.
When a city or county implements a magistrate search warrant plan, a local judge must be on call to issue search warrants 24-7. Then officers can take blood from those who refuse a Breathalyzer.
The blood tests will be sent to outside labs for analysis, and prosecution will depend on the results.
“It will give us scientific evidence whether or not the person intoxicated,” Moore said.
Being able to issue search warrants on the spot would help prosecutors convict intoxicated drivers, Moore said. Normal processing for suspected drunk drivers who refuse a Breathalyzer can take hours, which means more time for the blood alcohol level to approach legal levels.
If the driver refuses a Breathalyzer, a magistrate’s search warrant can be issued quickly so the officer can bring the driver in for a blood test to measure blood-alcohol level.
Local magistrate Toni Driver has agreed to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to issue the search warrants, Moore said.