BenSwann.com often reports on various “no refusal” DUI checkpoints that are being implemented periodically by police in states across the US, at which motorists who are suspected of driving under the influence and refuse a breathalyzer test are sometimes forced to submit to a blood test against their will. In fact, ABC 22 reports that such checkpoints are being implemented this weekend in Ohio. As it happens, the fact that these policies have been emerging in an increasing number of states and counties nationwide is not just a trend. According to USA Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a bureaucracy in the executive branch of the federal government under the Department of Transportation, has been providing state and local government agencies with grants and tool kits to set up “no refusal” blood-draw weekends.
At these checkpoints, drivers are examined by police while sitting in a line, meaning officers do not have the ability to watch for signs of impaired driving and instead are forced to look for less meaningful cues of impairment, such as reddened eyes or other physiological reactions that could be caused by a wide range of other circumstances. It is reasonably conceivable that someone coming home after a long work shift might be fine to drive but suffering from reddened eyes and, when asked to submit to a breathalyzer after driving safely, might wish to refuse on the basis of being uncomfortable with waiving his or her rights or annoyed by the inconvenience. In such a situation, a judge or judicial assistant called a magistrate would provide a warrant via telephone for a forced blood extraction procedure.
Criminal defense attorney Kevin Camp told USA Today that he believes this process is used as a way to circumvent the laws in his state that allow suspects to refuse a breathalyzer. “Search warrants are not supposed to be mass-produced stuff,” he said, commenting on the fast-paced process used to issue warrants via telephone during special enforcement periods, which often happen on holiday weekends. Camp intimated that he knows judges and police organizations who have refused to conduct the checkpoints due to questions about their legality. In most states, suspects who refuse a breathalyzer lose their driver’s licenses under implied consent laws, meaning forced blood extractions after a driver has refused a breath test do nothing additional to enhance public safety.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website describes its initiative, “The No Refusal program is an enforcement strategy that allows jurisdictions to obtain search warrants for blood samples from suspected impaired drivers who refuse breath tests. Many jurisdictions allow officers to request warrants via phone from on-call judges or magistrates. This enables law enforcement to legally acquire a proper blood sample from drivers who refuse to give a breath sample. During these specified enforcement efforts, prosecutors and judges make themselves available to streamline the warrant acquisition process and help build solid cases that can lead to impaired driving convictions. The No Refusal program should also be highly publicized to let the public know that their chances of being caught, arrested, and convicted increase during these efforts.”
Thirty states currently have laws on the books that could in theory allow them to conduct “no refusal” weekends. Some states like Texas, where DUI checkpoints have been banned under state law, accept the grant money for the blood-draw initiatives by conducting them county-wide, rather than at checkpoints.