BloomLegalTV: No Refusal DWI Checkpoints

Posted on Jul 30, 2011 in Bloom Legal TV

There’s been a lot of press recently surrounding what’s referred to as “No Refusal [DWI/DUI] Checkpoints.” Although the constitutionality was challenged a few years ago, the Constitution is still widely interpreted to allow for DWI checkpoints, as law enforcement officials make public announcements prior to checkpoint implementation. This, for the most part, is a good thing. It allows for strict enforcement of sobriety laws, which keep our highways and roads safe during busy travel times.

However, in recent months, “No Refusal” Checkpoints have been receiving a lot of attention from the media. When police stop a driver at a checkpoint they ask for a driver’s license, insurance, and registration. If the officer has reason to believe the driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol they will give that driver a field sobriety test. Usually their probable cause is related to the smell of alcohol, an open container in the car, bloodshot eyes, etc. In the state of Louisiana, if, over the course of the field sobriety test, it becomes clear that the driver is in fact under the influence, the officer will ask the driver to take a breathalyzer test.

Many attorneys recommend that their clients refuse the breathalyzer, holding that without it there’s no way for police to have hard, chemical evidence of their intoxication. However, in many states including Louisiana, if a driver is convicted of a DWI and refuses the breathalyzer, the DMV can suspend their driver’s license for two years (recently changed from one year).

How can that happen? Driving is a privilege issued by each state; it is not a God given or Constitutional right. The state says, “If you don’t want to take our breathalyzer test then we’re going to suspend your license”. However, if police don’t have that chemical evidence against you, it’s difficult to convict for a DWI. These field sobriety tests are antiquated and subjective; without a breathalyzer there’s no hard evidence, only the opinion of the arresting officer.

The government has caught on, and, in the name of keeping the roads safe, has started to keep a judge either on call or actually at the site during these DWI no-refusal weekends. Now, if a driver gets pulled over for a DWI and refuses a breathalyzer, officers will have a judge on hand to issue a search warrant based on suspicion of intoxication while operating a motor vehicle. The judge can actually issue a warrant to force them to take a sample from the suspect, which is usually a blood sample.

As gruesome as it sounds, officers can then hold the driver down, put them in handcuffs, and take them to an emergency room where a nurse or a medical technician will take a blood sample. That blood sample can later be used in court as evidence for or against the driver being intoxicated while operating a vehicle. This is certainly a more aggressive approach that jurisdictions are taking. Bloom

Legal believes that it is valuable for the public to be educated on the law, and how No Refusal DWI/DUI checkpoints work.

My name is Seth Bloom with the law firm Bloom Legal in New Orleans, Louisiana. Give us a call at 504-599-9997. We’re just generally talking about the law, DWIs, and DUIs. If you have a specific case or a specific unique fact pattern, you need to hire your own attorney in your jurisdiction to get the very best result from your situation.

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