LaGrange police soon plan to begin seeking warrants in order to obtain blood samples from DUI suspects who refuse to take a chemical test.
“While the number of DUI refusal cases, which are cases where the impaired driver makes an informed decision to refuse to provide a voluntary sample for analysis, are not extremely high in our jurisdiction, these types of incidents do occur,” said police Sgt. Delton Armstrong. “In a further attempt to protect the motoring public from the dangers that substance-impaired drivers create, our officers will be obtaining search warrants so that blood evidence can be legally collected from these impaired drivers after they have been placed under arrest.”
Police Lt. Mark Kostial said the idea is “not a new concept, but as an agency we will be doing this with increasing regularity.”
When a suspect is arrested on a DUI charge, he is given the option to submit to a chemical test of his blood, breath or urine, Kostial said. However, if he refuses, then his Georgia driver’s license and legal ability to operate a vehicle in the state may be suspended for at least a year.
“One of the main goals of the police department is to remove substance-impaired drivers from the roadways of our community,” Armstrong said, adding that in any given year LPD officers average about 150 DUI arrests. “After an arrest is made, these are some of the most difficult cases to prosecute based on the stigma that this charge carries to include ramifications that include a significant fine and loss of driving privileges upon conviction.”
Armstrong said that an officer can testify at trial that a DUI offender had poor balance, blood-shot eyes, appeared dazed, or had an inability to be cognizant of their surroundings, but a state-administered chemical test can reinforce an officer’s testimony of the driver’s impairment. It also puts the driver’s level of intoxication into perspective for a judge and jury.
“It is incumbent upon our officers to gather all evidence related to crimes that have been committed which is why this process is being implemented,” Armstrong said.
Kostial said that training for officers on this topic should begin next week and that they hope to start reinforcing this procedure later this month.