Blood draw program starts

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Carrollton first in county to launch no-refusal policy for DWI suspects

Carrollton police recently rolled out Denton County’s first mandatory “no-refusal” blood-draw program for suspected drunken drivers.

If a motorist is suspected of driving while intoxicated and refuses a breath test, police can obtain a search warrant to draw a blood sample.

After the driver is arrested and brought to the Carrollton City Jail, a trained phlebotomist takes the blood sample in a clean room specifically set up for drawing blood.

“Since Feb. 1, we have completed approximately 20 blood draws in our jail, which is a majority of the DWI arrests during that period,” Officer Jon Stovall said.

If a driver refuses, then the state has the right to impose an automatic suspension on his or her driver’s license, according to Carrollton police.

“In the case of a refusal, we are seeking a search warrant issued by a magistrate for the person’s blood based on probable cause and going ahead and taking the blood specimen without their consent,” Stovall said.

The new policy, launched Feb. 1, was based on a program launched in Dalworthington Gardens, about 12 miles southeast of Fort Worth.

In 2005, the community was the first in Texas to start a “no-refusal” blood-draw program, said Bill Waybourn, Dalworthington Gardens’ chief of public safety.

Waybourn said no accidents or safety concerns have been raised in the department’s nearly eight years of practice.

Since the policy’s inception, Dalworthington Gardens has had no DWI-related fatalities, Waybourn said.

He said the average blood alcohol level drawn is 0.16 percent. Texas’ legal limit is no more than 0.8 percent.

“As long as we have run our program, of the hundreds of people with blood drawn, only five have came back with mixed results, and all but one of those five contained some sort of illegal drug in their system,” Waybourn said.

Carrollton police are hoping to find similar success, saving taxpayers and the city unnecessary court costs in what’s become a hard area to prosecute.

When someone arrested for DWI refuses to participate in testing or to provide a breath specimen, there is a lot of evidence of their guilt that authorities are unable to obtain, said Carrollton Sgt. Andy Horn, who oversees most DWI cases.

While breath analyzers are effective, they are costly. Horn said the department spends $11,000 a year on one machine and defense attorneys have been tearing down their credibility for years.

“Blood specimens provide excellent evidence, which has proven rock-solid in court,” Horn said.

Carrollton jailers have been trained since the end of last year to draw blood on site at the police station, much like Dalworthington Gardens does. While some are still undergoing training, Carrollton police say they hope to have 12 jailers as certified technicians by mid-March.

Not only does the mandatory policy help with court cases, it saves time, Horn said.

Traditionally, the process of obtaining a warrant and transporting a suspect to the hospital for a blood draw could take hours.

Warrants are handled electronically and with the blood draw being done on-site, the whole process takes about an hour, Horn said.

While several area departments have participated in no-refusal programs, such initiatives are limited in time, generally focusing on holiday weekends.

Horn hopes other agencies will join in setting up year-round no-refusal programs.

“We hope that if anyone else wants to pursue a similar program, they can certainly come talk to us if they need any experience in their development,” Horn said. “We are all out there for the same reason, and by sharing knowledge, we only build firmer framework to rely upon.”

While cutting costs and saving time are beneficial, authorities’ ultimate goal, Horn said, is to get intoxicated drivers off the streets.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is mgray@dentonrc.com.


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