'No-Refusal' DUI Checkpoints Deployed To Combat Holiday Drunk Driving
On-call judges issue police officers search warrants so they can forcibly test a suspect's blood
According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, 637 Americans have been killed on the holiday between 2008 and 2012. That's an average of 127.4 people killed every July 4th. Roughly 44 percent of July 4th fatalities were caused by drunk driving in the latest year for which data was available, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In an effort to combat these deaths, law-enforcement officials in several states and counties have rolled out controversial "no-refusal" DUI checkpoints. Set up like traditional DUI checkpoints, these differ in an important way: Drivers suspected of operating under the influence who refuse to take a breathalyzer test will have their blood drawn, regardless of whether they consent.
Generally, drivers arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence can refuse to consent to a breathalyzer or other chemical test, such as blood or urine. Only after obtaining a search warrant can police then legally test the suspect. At a "no-refusal" checkpoint, however, police on the scene are issued a warrant by an on-call, or "mobile," judge and drivers are forced to have their blood taken and tested.
Police in Tarrant County, Texas, for instance, will have such checkpoints in effect throughout the holiday weekend, according to NBC DFW. The district attorney's office intends to publish the names and ages of anyone arrested for DUI during this time period.
"We continue to support 'no refusal' because we believe the citizens of Tarrant County should be able to travel our roadways without putting their lives at risk," Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert said in a statement explaining the decision to use the checkpoints. "Ending up dead or in jail is a poor way to celebrate our country's independence."
Law enforcement in other states such as Tennessee, Florida and Oregon have also legalized and used the checkpoints.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, "no-refusal" checkpoints have been met with some fierce criticism. Opponents of the checkpoints generally claim their use is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which grants American citizens certain protections against searches and seizures.
"Any time government is allowed to commit a seizure of your body and withdraw evidence prior to being arrested for a crime opens the door for a lot of issues," defense attorney Gregory P. Isaacs told knoxnews.com when Tennessee first started using them back in 2011. "This law really opens Pandora's box on virtually every DUI stop and weakens all of our fundamental freedoms."
Opponents have also criticized the physical act of forcibly taking blood, pointing to an intense video from MyFox Atlanta showing a suspect being strapped down to a gurney by numerous officers and having his blood drawn by an on-site nurse.
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