Missouri law enforcement officers have announced a new tactic to combat drunk driving in the state. Police in St. Louis say they will start using a “No Refusal Zone” technique during traffic stops this holiday season, prohibiting motorists from opting out of Breathalyzer tests. Those pulled over for DWI traffic stops will be required to submit to a blood test if they refuse to take a breath analysis at the scene.
A system has already been set up to accommodate drivers who are found to be refusing a Breathalyzer; a blood draw will occur within an estimated 90 minutes of a defendant’s arrest. Law enforcement leaders in the city say they think such a program is perfect for St. Louis, even though other cities have struggled; St. Louis is geographically condensed, however, which should make it easier to obtain quick blood samples from those transported to hospitals or holding facilities.
City officers say they arrest about two dozen drunk driving defendants every month. About half of those individuals refuse to take the Breathalyzer test, even though their driver’s license is automatically suspended for that refusal. Nationwide, about 20 percent of DWI defendants refuse to take blood alcohol content tests. Drunk drivers are harder to prosecute without this kind of quantitative evidence, though convictions are not impossible.
Authorities report that a large number of breath test refusals come from people who have previous DWI convictions. Missouri drivers who fail to submit to the test lose their licenses for a year, but they often avoid drunk-driving charges because of a dearth of evidence. In fact, blood test results were excluded entirely from one driver’s DWI case in 2013 after evidence showed that the arresting officer illegally obtained the test without a warrant.
Missouri drivers do not have to submit to a blood test without the issuance of a relevant warrant. Further, criminal defense attorneys in the area say that warrants for this analysis may be far less common than anticipated, especially for first-time offenders. Defendants who have questions about their legal rights during a traffic stop may benefit from consulting with a qualified criminal defense attorney, who can help them learn more about their legal rights in state and municipal courts.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “St. Louis police impose ‘No Refusal Zone’ for suspected drunk drivers” Ken Leiser, Dec. 30, 2013