Mandatory blood tests under Texas law
On Thursday peace officers from around the Permian Basin congregated at Crossroads Fellowship church in Odessa to discuss the latest strategies for catching drunk drivers.
Eighty-five law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys met for the annual DWI Regional Trainingprogram to train in procedures for stopping, arresting, and testing individuals suspected of driving while intoxicated.
W. Clay Abbot with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association said blood samples offer many advantages over breathalyzers for law enforcement officers. For example, with a blood sample, multiple tests can be conducted in case of botched results or challenges to the testing procedure. Also, blood testing is less likely than a breathalyzer to result in false positives, which can potentially lead to someone being charged for driving under the influence who is not intoxicated. There have been reports of mouthwashes leading to positive results in breathalyzers.
Ector County Attorney Cindy Weir-Nutter supports training law enforcement officers in phlebotomy so that they can draw blood in the field or in the station, as opposed to transporting a suspect to the hospital, where waiting in line for blood-draws can take hours. “That’s what I would like to get to, where it’s all blood all the time,” Weir-Nutter said. Abbot said he also supports setting up jails to conduct their own blood testing.
Under current Texas law, an individual is considered intoxicated when the blood-alcohol level reaches .08%. For minors, who are not allowed to consume alcohol at all, operating a vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol in the system is considered a driving under the influence offense.
Any time an officer suspects an individual to be driving under the influence, a warrant can be obtained to extract a blood sample even if the suspect objects. However, in case of a vehicle accident, and when serious bodily injury has occurred, if an individual has a prior DWI offense on record, or if there is a child present in the vehicle, no warrant is needed to extract blood from a suspect, and the arresting officer can order blood to be drawn at the scene by any attending EMT.
Controversy arose over the new Texas law, which went into effect in September, 2009.
Boating or flying while intoxicated and assembling or operating a carnival ride while intoxicated are alsocriminal offenses in the state of Texas, carrying penalties similarly as stiff as driving while intoxicated.
Some confusion often arises between the terms “driving while intoxicated” and “driving while under the influence.” In Texas, the two terms are commonly used interchangeably to mean driving under the influence of any intoxicating substance, and can include prescription drugs.