Amid Protests, Sheriff Ends Participation in “No Refusal” Blood-Draw Checkpoints

An article posted last week on BenSwann.com noted that police in Clark County, OH were planning to and, on Friday, eventually did conduct “no refusal” checkpoints at which drivers suspected of driving under the influence could be forced to submit to a blood test against their will if they refused to consent to a breathalyzer test. According to WHIO-TV, Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly recently announced that his office would no longer be participating in future “no refusal” checkpoints after Friday’s program drew protesters from across Ohio. Sheriff Kelly, responding to a volley of complaints that he received via social media and email, said, “If this is not a positive event then we need to find another way to do our job and create an environment of public safety, and I’m intending to do that.”

WHIO-TV NewsCenter 7‘s video coverage of the controversy credited a blog published on Infowars with inspiring state-wide activists to gather at the checkpoints in protest, waving signs with slogans like, “Vampire cops ahead, they will take your blood! Turn now!” Though 464 drivers passed through last Friday’s checkpoint, no search warrants were issued for involuntary blood extractions.

Protesters complained that the “no refusal” checkpoints violate Fourth Amendment privacy protections found in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, as the program targets drivers for investigation on the basis of their geographical location, rather than their driving, and because many feel that forced blood extractions are an unreasonable type of search.

Springfield Police Division Lieutenant Tom Zawata told WHIO-TV that he is uncertain whether or not more “no refusal” checkpoints will be conducted this year. “We chose to use it at this checkpoint as a way to make the public aware there is an opportunity and existing ability to obtain a search warrant,” said Zawata, implying that the checkpoints were intended as a promotional and educational event, rather than a serious effort to apprehend known drunk drivers. Since the Clark County Operating a Vehicle Impaired Task Force is made up of officers from several police agencies, the fact that Sheriff Gene Kelly’s office is not participating in the program in the future does not necessarily mean that there will be no more “no refusal” checkpoints in the county.

Behind the scenes, the federal government recently decreased its financial contributions to Clark County’s OVI checkpoints program, leading police to conduct fewer of them this year than in previous years.