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Drunk Driving

More States Exploring No Refusal Strategy for DUI Checkpoints

"No refusal" checkpoints for DUIs are just as the name implies – people who are stopped by police at a checkpoint and say no to a breathalyzer test can still be issued a warrant for a blood test to determine sobriety. The measure, although considered radical by some, is another tool several states are using with Supreme Court approval to keep drunk drivers off of roads.

States have gradually implemented the no refusal policy, including Florida, where in 2005, Supreme Court justices stated that it is legal to mandate a blood test for a driver suspected of driving while impaired who refuses a breathalyzer test. Today, at least nine states are actively utilizing the no refusal strategy in their DWI efforts.

In December of 2010, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation announced another push to encourage states to use a no refusal policy, especially during holiday weekends, which allows state law enforcement officers to utilize a warrant provided by a judge at a checkpoint to administer a blood test if a driver says no to a breathalyzer.

Additionally, the no refusal strategy is in place in at least 30 other states, which would allow more efficient investigations of drivers stopped at sobriety checkpoints without the lengthy process of formally modifying state laws.

The measure hasn’t resulted in reports of officers needing to use force to draw blood from drivers, but instead they can revoke a driver’s license or give the penalty of extended jail time if the driver is convicted of a DUI and refuses both the breathalyzer and blood test.

Some states have tried the no refusal strategy during holiday weekends, such as the recent New Year’s celebration. In Galveston, Texas, the "no refusal weekend" resulted in six drivers arrested for drunk driving – numbers some reporters say are encouraging.

Other states have worked with attorneys to create a smooth process for the no refusal efforts, including bringing a registered nurse on-site to perform the blood draw in a secure, private area and using videotaping to protect against accusations by offenders. Judges have been able to use faxes and other technology to process the warrant for the blood draw, increasing the speed and efficiency of the process.

In states where "no refusal weekends" have been put into place, law enforcement officers have reported having stronger evidence toward convicting a drunk driver without excess paperwork, and prosecutors have been able to make more accurate decisions and more thorough case evaluations. For those accused of drunk driving, many experts say the process helps provide a more accurate, streamlined case in accordance with DWI law, and in some cases, can exonerate persons who were not found guilty of the offense.

During 2009, 10,839 people lost their lives due to car accidents involving drunk or impaired driving, representing a decline from 2008, but still a critical number that is encouraging a stiffer nationwide crackdown on drunk driving. It is estimated that about 25 percent of drivers pulled over for suspected drunk driving will refuse a breathalyzer sobriety test, and officials hope more states will adopt the no refusal strategy to help prevent drunk drivers from taking to the roads.

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