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  • Idaho Police draw blood from drunk drivers, may encourage nationwide standard

    Police say syringes will help stop drunk driving
    BOISE, Idaho – When police officer Darryll Dowell is on patrol in the southwestern Idaho city of Nampa, he'll pull up at a stoplight and usually start casing the vehicle. Nowadays, his eyes will also focus on the driver's arms, as he tries to search for a plump, bouncy vein.

    "I was looking at people's arms and hands, thinking, 'I could draw from that,'" Dowell said.

    It's all part of training he and a select cadre of officers in Idaho and Texas have received in recent months to draw blood from those suspected of drunken or drugged driving. The federal program's aim is to determine if blood draws by cops can be an effective tool against drunk drivers and aid in their prosecution.

    If the results seem promising after a year or two, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will encourage police nationwide to undergo similar training.

    For years, defense attorneys in Idaho advised clients to always refuse breath tests, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Christine Starr said. When the state toughened the penalties for refusing the tests a few years ago, the problem lessened, but it's still the main reason that drunk driving cases go to trial in the Boise region, Starr said.

    Idaho had a 20 percent breath test refusal rate in 2005, compared with 22 percent nationally, according to an NHTSA study.

    Starr hopes the new system will cut down on the number of drunken driving trials. Officers can't hold down a suspect and force them to breath into a tube, she noted, but they can forcefully take blood — a practice that's been upheld by Idaho's Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The nation's highest court ruled in 1966 that police could have blood tests forcibly done on a drunk driving suspect without a warrant, as long as the draw was based on a reasonable suspicion that a suspect was intoxicated, that it was done after an arrest and carried out in a medically approved manner.

    The practice of cops drawing blood, implemented first in 1995 in Arizona, has also raised concerns about safety and the credibility of the evidence.

    "I would imagine that a lot of people would be wary of having their blood drawn by an officer on the hood of their police vehicle," said Steve Oberman, chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' DUI Committee.

    The officer phlebotomists are generally trained under the same program as their state's hospital or clinical phlebotomists, but they do it under a highly compressed schedule, and some of the curriculum is cut.

    That's because officers don't need to know how to draw blood from a foot or other difficult sites, or from an infant or medically fragile patient, said Nicole Watson, the College of Western Idaho phlebotomy instructor teaching the Idaho officers.

    Instead, they are trained on the elbow crease, the forearm and the back of the hand. If none are accessible, they'll take the suspect to the hospital for testing.

    In a nondescript Boise office building where the Nampa officers were trained, Dowell scanned his subject and prepared to draw blood. Chase Abston, an officer taking his turn playing a suspect, recoiled a bit, pressing his back deeper into the gray pleather chair.

    Dowell slid a fine-gauge needle into the back of Abston's hand. Abston, who had been holding his breath, slowly exhaled as his blood began to flow.

    All the officers seemed like they'd be more comfortable if their colleagues were wielding sidearms instead of syringes. But halfway through the second day of training, with about 10 venipunctures each under their belts, they relaxed enough to trade barbs alongside needle jabs.

    They're making quick progress, Watson said. Their training will be complete after they have logged 75 successful blood draws.

    Once they're back on patrol, they will draw blood of any suspected drunk driver who refuses a breath test. They'll use force if they need to, such as getting help from another officer to pin down a suspect and potentially strap them down, Watson said.

    Though most legal experts agree blood tests measure blood alcohol more accurately than breath tests, Oberman said the tests can be fraught with problems, too.

    Vials can be mixed up, preservative levels in the tubes used to collect the blood can be off, or the blood can be stored improperly, causing it to ferment and boosting the alcohol content.

    Oberman said law enforcement agencies should also be concerned "about possible malpractice cases over somebody who was not properly trained."

    Alan Haywood, Arizona's law enforcement phlebotomy coordinator who is directing the training programs in Idaho and Texas, said officers are exposed to some extra on-the-job risk if they draw blood, but that any concern is mitigated by good training and safe practices.

    "If we can't get the evidence safely, we're not going to endanger the officers or the public to collect that evidence," he said.

    The Phoenix Police Department only uses blood tests for impaired driving cases. Detective Kemp Layden, who oversees drug recognition, phlebotomy and field sobriety, said the city now has about 120 officers certified to draw blood. Typically, a suspect is brought to a precinct or mobile booking van for the blood draw.

    Under the state's implied consent law, drivers who refuse to voluntarily submit to the test lose their license for a year, so most comply. For the approximately 5 percent who refuse, the officer obtains a search warrant from an on-call judge and the suspect can be restrained if needed to obtain a sample, Layden said.

    Between 300 to 400 blood tests are done in an average month in the nation's fifth-largest city.

    During holiday months that number can rise to 500, said Layden, who reviews each case to make sure legal procedures were followed.

    Outside of Arizona, some law enforcement agencies in Utah have officer phlebotomists, and police in Dalworthington Gardens, Texas are cross-trained as paramedics and have been drawing blood for about three years. The NHTSA is in talks with Houston, Texas about doing the phlebotomy training there, he said.

    They're all attracted by Arizona's anecdotal evidence.

    "What we found was that the refusal rates of chemical testing lowered significantly since this program began," Haywood said. "Arizona we had about a 20 percent refusal rate in 1995, and today we see about an 8 to 9 percent refusal rate."
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090913/...lice_dui_blood

    IMHO, get the vampires do it. Why add on more thing for LEOs to worry about and get sued over?

  • #2
    Officers can't hold down a suspect and force them to breath into a tube, she noted, but they can forcefully take blood — a practice that's been upheld by Idaho's Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Comment


    • #3
      I have no interest in trying to poke and prod a drunk/high driver. There are officer safety issues, along with who knows what kind of lawsuits you'll face if you do it incorrectly.

      I'll pass.

      Comment


      • #4
        Culture shock, again for me, coming from Los Angeles to Colorado. Back in L.A. getting blood was a time-consuming, pain in the pants - trip to the E/R, or to the Jail Dispensary.

        Fast-forward to CO, where on a ride-along in Greenwood Village, the officer I rode with got a DUI suspect who wanted blood drawn. Ten minutes after the officer picked up the phone, an AMR ambulance medic was at the holding tank door, drawing the blood. Very little paperwork.

        Not at all sure I would want some of the cops I've worked with, over 30+ years, coming anywhere near me with a sharp object, and their somewhat questionable hygiene.
        "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

        Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

        Three things I know for sure: (1) No bad deed goes unrewarded, (2) No good deed goes unpunished, and (3) It is entirely possible to push the most devoted, loyal and caring person beyond the point where they no longer give a 5h!t.

        Comment


        • #5
          Phoenix has been doing this for the past year or so....we got ride of the breathalizers and now just draw blood on everyone...we'll bring them to our mobile vans and draw right there...if they refuse we'll bring them back to the station get a warrant and if they still refuse we'll strap them to a chair and draw. We have hundreds of Officers certified now to draw blood and it really doesn't take any longer then when we had the breathalizers.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by marcusindc View Post
            I have no interest in trying to poke and prod a drunk/high driver. There are officer safety issues, along with who knows what kind of lawsuits you'll face if you do it incorrectly.

            I'll pass.
            I believe you actually have to take him/her to the hospital or a certified medical place.

            In Estonia it's the same. When a drunk driver doesn't want to blow into a tube he/she has the possibilty to get the toxic level taken from blood. And if she/he doesn't want that aither they'll get forced into it. That means taken to a hospital and fixed to a stool or something.

            It's no different than a nurse putting on an IV or what ever it is called that goes into your vain, when a car crash victim who's very agressive or any agressive victim comes into the hospital.

            In Estonia, last year there were about 15 people who had to be taken to a blood test but at that time forcing someone into it was illegal by law. Now in June i think the law changed. And probably the fact that it is allowed now will change the minds of at least half of them 15 not co-operating.
            "Every morning you are handed 24 golden hours. They are one of the few things in this world that you get free of charge. If you had all the money in the world, you couldn't buy an extra hour. What will you do with this priceless treasure? Remember, you must use it, as it is given only once. Once wasted you cannot get it back." -Anonymous

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by HotSoup View Post
              Phoenix has been doing this for the past year or so....we got ride of the breathalizers and now just draw blood on everyone...we'll bring them to our mobile vans and draw right there...if they refuse we'll bring them back to the station get a warrant and if they still refuse we'll strap them to a chair and draw. We have hundreds of Officers certified now to draw blood and it really doesn't take any longer then when we had the breathalizers.
              Doesn't Arizona law give them a choice of test?
              Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
              Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein

              Comment


              • #8
                .
                In MN if you need blood drawn forcefully, you take them to the hospital and nurses do it.


                For a urine test, officers can do it, for regular blood tests that are not forced the hospital still does it.


                Too bad we don't have the intoxilyzer anymore.


                .

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DAL View Post
                  Doesn't Arizona law give them a choice of test?
                  Most agencies at least around the Phoenix area no longer use breathalizers....and when we had the breathalizers they didn't get to choose what test they took the Officers chose what to use be it breath or blood...we switched to doing blood draws because lawyers just hammered every little thing about the breathalizer

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by marcusindc View Post
                    I have no interest in trying to poke and prod a drunk/high driver. There are officer safety issues, along with who knows what kind of lawsuits you'll face if you do it incorrectly.

                    I'll pass.
                    Very little risk of any permanent injury from IV therapy. Technically since about 20 of our officers are EMT/IVs, by TN law we could actually do our own blood draws in, but we leave it to the nurses to exclude any conflict issues. Just taking blood with the smaller butterfly style needles, it's not too hard.

                    TN allows officers to request breath and/or blood. A new law just passed where if a person believe to be impaired caused injury in a crash to any other vehicle occupant, regardless of the severity of the injury, blood can be forced.
                    I'm 10-8 like a shark in a sea of crime..

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by HotSoup View Post
                      Most agencies at least around the Phoenix area no longer use breathalizers....and when we had the breathalizers they didn't get to choose what test they took the Officers chose what to use be it breath or blood...we switched to doing blood draws because lawyers just hammered every little thing about the breathalizer
                      Not the question I asked.

                      As I read it, A.R.S. § 28-1321 states that the driver must give consent to a blood, breath or urine test. Can you nonetheless forcibly take a blood sample?

                      I also read that there is a recent appellate decision that holds that express consent or a warrant is required to draw blood.

                      What if the suspect says "I don't want a blood test. I'll take a breath test or a urine test?"
                      Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
                      Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Fleeting evidence of a crime.

                        Warrant is just gravy.
                        All Gave Some - Some Gave All

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by avalon42 View Post
                          IMHO, get the vampires do it. Why add on more thing for LEOs to worry about and get sued over?
                          Originally posted by marcusindc View Post
                          I have no interest in trying to poke and prod a drunk/high driver. There are officer safety issues, along with who knows what kind of lawsuits you'll face if you do it incorrectly.

                          I'll pass.
                          We can get sued over literally anything we do. We can get sued for making a traffic stop. And sued if a drunk hits a person we have pulled over, or their car. Officers get sued daily over completely justified and legal uses of force. And supervisors get sued when they aren't even on scene for vicarious liability.

                          I personally can't wait until we can get certified. I hear rumor that we might. I do a lot of DWIs and this training would be invaluable. I won't worry about being sued for this any more than any other part of my job.

                          Originally posted by velobard View Post
                          Yep. Just don't drink and drive and it isn't an issue.

                          Originally posted by Est-Martin View Post
                          I believe you actually have to take him/her to the hospital or a certified medical place.
                          Fortunately we have one of those in our jail. If we ever get certified we'll just do it there.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            the choice of what chemical test the suspect will perform in Arizona is 100% up too the officer. If the suspect says i'll do blood but not breath and the officer wants a breath test, that is considered a refusal. The suspects license will be suspended for a year, we'll get a search warrant and get there blood one way or another!
                            "When I close my eyes.....I'll see you on the other side....!!!"

                            Hate to put it this way skippy, buy every night I suit up and climb in the cruiser I'm at war. I'm always outnumbered, potentially out gunned and always behind enemy lines.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by DAL View Post
                              Not the question I asked.

                              As I read it, A.R.S. § 28-1321 states that the driver must give consent to a blood, breath or urine test. Can you nonetheless forcibly take a blood sample?

                              I also read that there is a recent appellate decision that holds that express consent or a warrant is required to draw blood.

                              What if the suspect says "I don't want a blood test. I'll take a breath test or a urine test?"
                              They don't have a choice since we no longer use breathalizers....we'll ask them if they'll consent to a blood test...if they refuse they lose thier license for 12 months and then we'll get a warrant and draw blood....they don't have a choice in what test we decide to give them...A.R.S. 28-1321 is implied consent...when a person in Arizona signs for their driver's license they give thier consent to whatever test Officers decide to use...if you keep reading in Paragraph A of 28-1321 it clearly states that the test or tests are chosen by the LE agency after the LEO has reasonable grounds to believe that the person was driving impaired.

                              Comment

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