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Physically forced blood draw DWI finally makes its appearance

Posted by Brian Tillman on 19 September 2011

Fortunately it DIDN’T happen in Austin, at least not yet. This only slightly stale news story comes to us from Wyoming, a shade more conservative than Austin by most accounts. I apologize in advance for not disclosing in the title that this incident did not actually occur in Texas, but it’s a hot enough issue so it’s bound to come up.

Wyoming has recently passed a statute allowing police to get warrants for blood if they can establish probable cause for DWI. This is similar to the situation we have in Texas, including a streamlined process where a magistrate can be contacted almost immediately by the police who relay observations in support of a blood warrant. Wyoming’s new law went into effect on July 1st, and 30 days later Cheyenne’s police got into their first (dare I say?) rodeo with a driver who didn’t care about the state’s search warrant. In the end, 5 Cheyenne police officers were able to pin him down and get the needle in his arm for their DWI evidence. And when pressed on the issue, the Chief of Police appeared to push it off on the court: “The judge is essentially ordering us to obtain blood from this person,” stated Chief Brian Kozak, “so we are going to get that.”

My problem is with that “essentially” part, and it’s why I don’t like forced blood draws. There are a lot of people out there who don’t like the idea of the government ordering you to submit to a blood draw, much less one where five cops restrain and stick you while the chief videos it with his cell phone. According to the arresting officer, the accused repeatedly yelled “I’m gonna make you break the needle off in my arm!” Chief Kozak also reportedly heard the defendant repeatedly state that he was continuing to fight because the longer he fought, the less intoxicated he would become. Seriously? So even after he accidentally admits being intoxicated, you still felt it necessary to get that blood by force? Oooooh, that’s right, the court ordered it.

Here’s a thought- let the court hold him in contempt. Or come up with a charge for interfering with the (court ordered) duties of the police? Oh, that’s right, you did charge him for interfering with the police. So there’s an extra misdemeanor that sounds flattering. Still not enough to keep from sticking the guy? Is there no other way to prove intoxication besides forcefully withdrawing your blood? Like maybe digital video from the police cruiser that shows him crossing white lines and nearly colliding with the sidewalk, as the officer alleged? Is it too much to assume the cruisers have video in Wyoming? (I’ll tell you a secret- it’s a hell of a lot easier for the cops to convict without it.) Can the officer not testify to all of that, the other five officers and the chief holding his video camera phone? Is it too much to assume a jury can figure out when someone is intoxicated without blood evidence?

Enough sidetrack, here’s the article from Wyoming.


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