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During a drunk-driving traffic stop or following a crash, time is a critical factor when it comes to accurately determining a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Because the human body rapidly metabolizes consumed alcohol, if too much time passes between the initial stop and the administration of a BAC test, the results may not support prosecution.

That’s why many jurisdictions turn to blood draw testing when a DUI suspect refuses a breath test. In some counties, it can take several hours to get a paper warrant issued for a blood draw, especially if the request is made late at night. In places like Illinois’ Boone County and McHenry County, electronic warrants are speeding up this process. Relying on on-call judges, officers can obtain the court order necessary to mandate blood sample testing for drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test. The goal of these programs is to preserve evidence—a driver’s BAC levels are often the strongest evidence in DUI cases—in hopes of securing more convictions.

Blood Tests Seen as More Intrusive

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Missouri v. McNeely that blood testing without a warrant was unconstitutional. The ruling was reaffirmed three years later in Birchfield v. North Dakota when the high court upheld penalties for warrantless breath tests, but not for blood testing. At the time, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion:

“Because the impact of breath tests on privacy is slight, and the need for BAC testing is great, the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving. Blood tests, however, are significantly more intrusive, and their reasonableness must be judged in light of the availability of the less invasive alternative of a breath test.”

As a result, many states had to alter their implied consent laws. Now, the only way officers with probable cause can compel a DUI suspect to undergo blood draw testing is by acquiring a legal warrant beforehand.

Streamlining Due Process Procedures

Boone and McHenry Counties’ are part of a growing policy trend utilizing technology to more quickly obtain warrants, helping to both collect and preserve BAC evidence in cases of drunk driving. If a DUI suspect refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test, warrant requests can be created, reviewed, and processed electronically, allowing officers to acquire a blood sample test at a nearby hospital. No Refusal policies are providing counties not only more evidence, but more accurate evidence for prosecuting drunk driving offenses in court.

By instituting No Refusal DUI policies, many law enforcement agencies are no longer allowing suspected drunk drivers to simply avoid sobriety testing during DUI stops.

According to a statement made by McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, “This policy will ensure that prosecutors are equipped with the strongest possible evidence in court and, thereby, that all DUI offenders are held accountable.”

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Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up: A blog about drunk driving, alcohol addiction, and criminal justice, is anything but a corporate blog. Sobering Up is an opportunity for anyone interested or involved in the issues of drunk driving, alcohol-fueled crime, alcohol dependence and addiction, and the justice system to participate in the conversation.


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