Friday, December 28, 2007

Bloody 'bout time

*hic* No, I don't want another bloody mary ossifer *hic* I said i want a scotch on the rocks *hic*

Blood to be drawn from DWI suspects

By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times

El Paso police will use search warrants to get blood samples from suspected drunken drivers who refuse breath tests in a controversial pilot program that begins tonight.

The temporary "no-refusal program" is patterned after similar efforts in a few other Texas cities, including Houston, where it has raised invasion-of-privacy issues. It has immediately compelled constitutional questions in El Paso.

"It's all about making our streets safer and holding the person who chooses to drink and drive accountable," El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza said Thursday afternoon at a news conference announcing the project.

The program will take place from 10 p.m. today to 4 a.m. Saturday, on Saturday night and on New Year's Eve,. It is designed to curb drunken driving during the holiday season.
Esparza was joined by Police Chief Richard Wiles and Virginia Gonzalez, executive director of the El Paso chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who supported the program as a way to discourage intoxicated drivers.

Esparza estimated that the warrant process would take about 30 to 45 minutes with a judge and nurse on duty. Esparza described the procedure this way:

After a DWI arrest, the arrestee will be taken for a breath test at the police Central Regional Command Center. If the arrestee refuses to take the breath test in a videotaped statement, a prosecutor will request a search warrant for blood from a judge.

If the judge at the police station approves the warrant, a nurse paid for by the Police Department will draw a blood sample at Tillman Health Center, which is operated by the city and is behind the police station.

The blood will be sent to Texas Department of Public Safety lab for blood-alcohol results, which will arrive in around a month. The suspect would still be jailed on a DWI test-refusal charge.
Esparza and Wiles said the initiative is necessary because more than half of the 50 traffic deaths in El Paso this year involved drunken drivers. And about 50 percent of people arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated refuse to take the breath test, making prosecution more difficult.

El Paso police made 2,071 arrests for driving while intoxicated last year.