Mandatory Blood Draws being expanded...
by the legislature. It is almost like I knew this was coming when I claimed it would be expanded and the appeals by defense lawyers to search warrants would be futile.
Mandatory DWI blood draws to expand in Texas
FORT WORTH — A Fourth of July weekend operation that made it easier for police to draw blood from suspected drunken drivers may be a glimpse of things to come.
State lawmakers have expanded the types of cases requiring mandatory blood draws without a search warrant. Cases included starting Sept. 1 are felony DWI cases, suspected drunken-driving accidents where someone is injured and transported for medical treatment and cases when a person is arrested on suspicion of drunken driving with a child younger than 15 in the vehicle.
Previously, the law only required a mandatory blood draw when a person was arrested on suspicion of intoxication manslaughter, or suspected of being over the legal 0.08 percent limit and an accident victim was expected to die.
Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert, who specializes in alcohol-related cases, expects the number of mandatory blood draws in Tarrant County to jump from 50 to 60 a year to more than 800, based on the new requirements.
"I view the last several years as a dress rehearsal for a change in the law," he said, referring to police operations like the recent "No Refusal" weekend in which prosecutors hired nurses to help with the blood draws and magistrate judges were available to sign search warrants to take the blood evidence.
Waiting in line
It cost the county about $3,000 to have nurses available across the county during the holiday weekend operation; money for the program came from forfeiture funds.
But police are unsure where they will take those people arrested who need blood drawn after Sept. 1, or how they will pay for the additional mandatory blood draws and the additional laboratory costs.
The changes, enacted in Senate Bill 328, will require more police to process suspected drunken drivers, nearly double the number of lab tests for alcohol-related cases, and will increase the number of people waiting in jail for those test results.
Still some police say they welcome the changes in the law because it will allow them to collect blood evidence in certain cases without a search warrant.
"The benefits are tremendous because blood cases are much sturdier . . . and increase the quality of our cases in the court system," said Fort Worth police Capt. Gene Jones, a traffic division commander. "We don’t know yet how we will accommodate the increase in blood draws, but it’s all part of doing business, in the same way we pay to process other evidence."
Arlington police are studying how the changes will affect their budget or their contractual agreement with Medical Center of Arlington to perform the blood draws for alcohol-related cases.
"We haven’t decided yet how we are going to handle this," Arlington police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis said. "We’ll have to look at the number of cases from previous years that might give us an idea of how many more blood draws we will have to do."
Most police agencies in the county pay the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office to perform the lab tests. They cost $250 per test and can take up to six weeks, although some cases can be turned around in a couple of weeks.
"Our workload is going to increase quite a bit," said Linda Anderson, spokeswoman for the office. "We’re still looking at how all of the additional tests will impact our operation."
ANTHONY SPANGLER, 817-390-7420
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Robert A. Heinlein
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