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The Lake News Online
  • Miller County policy shift circumvents breathalyzer refusals

  • For those thinking about refusing a breathalyzer test when pulled over for suspicion of Driving While Intoxicated in Miller County, a new policy has a way around that refusal.
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  • For those thinking about refusing a breathalyzer test when pulled over for suspicion of Driving While Intoxicated in Miller County, a new policy has a way around that refusal.
    Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Howard announced Tuesday that his office, in cooperation with local judges and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, has implemented a "no refusal" policy on DWI arrests in Miller County.
    Current Missouri law mandates that drivers consent to a chemical test upon arrest for suspicion of DWI, and a refusal to do so can result in automatic loss of driving privileges for one year.
    Law enforcement officers in Miller County now have an additional tool to aid their DWI investigations: a digital search warrant. A press release from Howard's office indicates that Miller County officers who pull a driver over on suspicion of DWI can attain a digital search warrant that can be processed and issued electronically by the court to authorize a blood draw if the suspect refuses a breathalyzer.
    Howard explained that officers could keep a suspect who refuses a breathalyzer in custody while applying for the search warrant. The search warrant would allow for a blood draw before a suspect is released.
    Howard described the "old paper-bound" procedure required printing out pages of documents and physical trips by police officers carrying the warrant around to find a judge to sign after obtaining approval from the prosecutor. Due to the cumbersome nature of the process and delays involved, such search warrants in the past were typically utilized only in felony cases involving death or injury or when a suspect was a chronic DWI offender.
    Howard has authorized law enforcement officers in Miller County to now seek a digital search warrant at their discretion in any DWI case.
    The digital search warrant would be filed with the use of a pre-existing template that officers can fill out with a probable cause to expedite the process.
    Howard said a judge would be contacted and after reviewing the documents in the warrant request, enter an electronic signature from a tablet device.
    “The timeframe we would anticipate from when the officer decides to obtain a search to get approval for a search warrant could be between 15 minutes to half an hour,” Howard said.
    Howard said once a suspect is shown a court-ordered search warrant, most will submit to a blood test.
    “I don’t think we’ve ever really had a person physically resist,” Howard said.
    He did note, however, that officers could apply force as needed to get a blood sample after a warrant has been approved.
    Officers would not be responsible for the blood test. Depending on the availability of EMTs in the area, medical personnel trained to draw blood could do so at the scene or, in some instances, would be conducted at a hospital or by EMT personnel.
    Page 2 of 2 - Blood testing is a more accurate method to determine intoxication. Howard said he's never seen an instance where a blood test showed a lower Blood Alcohol Content measurement than a breathalyzer.
    The goal of the new policy, according to Howard, is to reduce the number of breathalyzer refusals in Miller County, making the roads safer.
    “Most refusals come from repeat offenders or those who have thought out an advance strategy about how to evade a DWI ticket," Howard said. "These are the people we want to focus on and to get the message — if you drive while impaired and get stopped, you will be arrested, you will be tested and you will be prosecuted."
    Howard said the county has seen between ten and twelve instances where a digital warrant was issued in a trial phase so far in 2014.
    Miller County experienced 37 alcohol related crashes in 2013 resulting in 10 fatalities and 24 injuries.

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