Monday, September 21, 2009

Just breathe - or else

Okay, here's one from several days ago that I missed but is worth noting even at this late date. Link via RawStory.

On September 13, AP reported on a pilot federal project in which cops in Idaho and Texas are being trained in drawing blood and are thus becoming empowered to forcibly obtain blood samples from suspected drunk drivers who have refused breath tests.

To what end?
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.
But here's the real rub: What constitutes "promising results?" Ada County (Idaho) Deputy Prosecutor Christine Starr "hopes the new system will cut down on the number of drunken driving trials" which arise from people refusing breath tests. In Arizona, where the practice has been going on for some time, that state's law enforcement phlebotomy coordinator, named Alan Haywood, said the breath test refusal rate dropped from about 20% to "about an 8 to 9 percent refusal rate." That result is "attractive" to other localities.

Here's the central point: Nowhere in the article does anyone suggest that this has reduced or will reduce the incidence of drunk driving. The only thing suggested is that it will give cops more power and make things more convenient for prosecutors and courts.

And when I say forcibly, I mean it: In Idaho, the cops will
use force if they need to, such as getting help from another officer to pin down a suspect and potentially strap them down....
Oh, is that legal? Well, of course it is!
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.
But Idaho appears ready to go beyond that: Of the cops being trained as rookie phlebotomists, the article says that
[o]nce they're back on patrol, they will draw blood of any suspected drunk driver who refuses a breath test.
In short, if you refuse to give evidence against yourself with a breath test, you can be grabbed, muscled, strapped down, and have blood taken by force. For the public good, of course.

Footnote: In Phoenix, they do 300-400 blood tests a month and up to 500 in a holiday month - which seems to me either to make Phoenix a pretty drunken city or this a case of "stick first, justify later."
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.
Uh-huh. Paraphrasing Arthur Dent, this is obviously some strange usage of the word "voluntary" that I hadn't previously been aware of.
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....
I repeat....

Another Footnote: I'm just waiting for the first case in Idaho of someone being tasered for refusing to submit to having blood taken.

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');