Here in Washington State, an individual that is under suspicion of DUI (driving under the influence) has the right to refuse the field sobriety tests and portable breath test administered by law enforcement because these tests are voluntary. An individual suspected of DUI also has the right to refuse to take the breathalyzer test at the station, however, they may face a one year driver’s license suspension by the DOL (department of licensing) because of the refusal. Once an individual has refused the breathalyzer test, the burden of proving that individual is DUI is upon the arresting officer, thus the officer may call a judge to obtain a search warrant to obtain a blood draw sample from that individual. Next that individual will be taken to a hospital where a nurse will take a sample of their blood to determine their BAC (blood alcohol content) levels.
Not all States follow this same procedure when handling persons suspected of DUI that have refused the breathalyzer test. Georgia has their own legal methods of drawing blood samples from refusal individuals that are called “Forced Blood Draws” or “Forcible Blood Draws.”
Once a Georgia officer has obtained a search warrant from a judge for a blood draw, the “forcible” part of the blood draw comes into play when multiple police officers hustle a DUI suspect into a small room at the station, strap them onto a cot or table with multiple tethers, put them into a head lock, and wait for a nurse to draw their blood. All individuals are treated in the same manner, strapped down and put into a head lock, even if they are completely calm and compliant.
This type of blood draw by restraints has become very controversial. Many citizens have expressed this is a violation of our constitutional rights, it is animalistic, an unnecessary intrusive experience, and just plain terrifying. A few of the comments posted after the news brief, DUI suspects face forced blood draws in some Ga. counties, found on www.myfoxatlanta.com read, “this is wrong. its all about control. no rights.” and “This is very wrong and the justice system is failing in a big way.” Other people are saying this forceful procedure is completely justified if a DUI suspect isn’t being compliant by taking the breathalyzer test.
Police officers are justifying the procedure by saying these (restraints and headlocks) are necessary precautionary measures to ensure no one gets hurt. They also claim these forced blood draws have increased their DUI conviction rate.
Just a reminder of our Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Written by S.O