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Critics Question Legality of "No Refusal" Checkpoints

27-Oct-2014

The weekends closest to holidays are often big weekends for sobriety checkpoints, but recently, DUI roadblocks were in the news for another reason. Several states chose to recognize "No-Refusal Weekend," in which drivers stopped for DUI who refused to submit to chemical testing were then ordered by a judge's warrant to submit to a blood draw.

Most states, including Oklahoma, are "implied consent" states. This means that when a person receives his or her driver's license, he or she implicitly gives consent to blood alcohol analysis if suspected of DUI. Refusal to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is punished by a suspension of the driver's license. 

In some cases, however, a driver may choose to refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, knowing that the administrative penalties of license suspension may be lighter than criminal penalties associated with DUI conviction. A person may still be convicted of DUI without evidence from a breath test, but it may be more difficult for the prosecution to secure conviction.

Still, in many states, including Oklahoma, law enforcement officers have the ability to get a warrant from a judge to require a blood test when the driver refuses to submit to DUI testing. These warrants are typically secured only in serious cases--for example, a fatal DUI accident--and the suspect is taken to a local hospital where a doctor performs the blood draw.

In the "No-Refusal Weekend," an initiative of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), law enforcement agents set up a typical DUI checkpoint. However, they notify a team of on-call judges that there will be more warrant calls than usual, and they install a nurse at the county jail to expedite blood draws. Supporters of the initiative praise it as a way to get drunk drivers off the streets and say that the the no-refusal checkpoints comply with already existing laws and the ability of law enforcement to obtain a warrant for blood testing.

Critics, however, say that these no-refusal tactics are an attempt to circumvent the law and utilize warrants in a way in which they were not intended. 

Kevin Camp, a criminal defense attorney in a state where the No-Refusal Weekend led to 152 arrests and 13 court-ordered blood draws, told USA Today, "Search warrants are not supposed to be mass-produced stuff." He points to a state law that says if a driver refuses to submit to blood testing, "none shall be given," and says that the no-refusal weekends and mass warrants "basically [make] it so the whole refusal statute doesn't matter."

Currently, states conducting  no-refusal initiatives include Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Missisippi, Texas, and Utah. Twenty other states, including Oklahoma, have the legal authority to implement such initiatives based on the ability to secure a warrant for mandatory blood testing.



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