Louisiana drivers be warned: If police arrest you for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will be asked to provide officers with a blood sample for them to test. Drivers who refuse will remain under arrest and police will be able to obtain a search warrant for their blood.
The controversial tactic is permitted under the so-called “no refusal” initiative — and it’s exactly what it sounds like.
Drivers arrested on suspicion of drunk driving have been able to refuse a breath, urine or blood test in the past. Now drivers in Louisiana technically have no choice.
“No refusal means that if you refuse a chemical test once you are arrested for a DWI, that trooper can get a search warrant. That search warrant is for your blood,” State Police Trooper Melissa Matey told WVUE-TV. “There are numerous parishes around the state that participate in no refusal 24/7 throughout the year, however during Thanksgiving you will see additional parishes that come on and promote the no refusal.”
“A magistrate judge will be on standby to sign the warrant authorizing a forced blood draw from a suspected drunk driver,” the report adds.
Even though the process is controversial, the state of Louisiana has reportedly upheld the “no refusal” policy as constitutional.
“Make the right choices before you get behind the wheel,” Matey advised drivers. “Make sure that you get a sober driver or call a taxicab, because it is much cheaper than getting a DWI.”
The state trooper stressed, however, that individuals must be arrested for DWI before police can demand a blood, urine or a breath test.
“We aren’t just drawing people’s blood on the side of the street,” she told TheBlaze.
“The field sobriety tests are extremely accurate,” Matey continued. “Never in my career as a law enforcement officer have I seen someone go to jail for a DWI who wasn’t impaired to the point that they shouldn’t be operating a motor vehicle.”
Matey added that people have the right to refuse a chemical test, but by doing so they face a one year license suspension on the first offense and a two year license suspension on the second offense. Further, if a judge then signs a warrant, they can still then be forced to provide a breath, blood or urine sample.
While more than 700 people reportedly died in alcohol-related crashes in Louisiana last year, some critics will certainly be concerned about the privacy of individuals who may be wrongly suspected of driving under the influence and therefore required to provide a blood sample. These cases will certainly be in the vast minority, though still theoretically possible.
Legal analyst Joe Raspanti told WVUE-TV that he always tells his clients to never voluntarily consent to a chemical test. However, he admits cops are technically operating within the law with the “no refusal” process.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Louisiana State Police also planned to set up any DWI roadblocks during the busy holiday week. Calls made to the state police after hours were not returned.
This story has been updated to reflect new comments from State Police Trooper Melissa Matey.