November 23, 2009 in Idaho

Lewiston police increasing drunken driving tests

Associated Press
 

LEWISTON — Lewiston Police Capt. Roger Lanier says the department is ramping up its stance against drunken driving, directing officers to forcibly take blood samples in some cases when suspected drunken drivers refuse breath tests.

The Lewiston Tribune reports the city’s policy is targeted at motorists with previous convictions for drunken driving, and drivers who officers suspect have a blood-alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit.

Lanier says the policy will be in place during holiday drunken driving patrols that begin this week.

Repeat offenders who know the system think if they can refuse everything they can to get around a drunken driving conviction, said assistant city attorney Jamie Shropshire. But rulings by the Idaho Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have upheld forced blood draws.

“They have no legal right to refuse to do them,” Shropshire said. A person’s blood alcohol-concentration is referred to as “fleeting evidence” that cannot be acquired later.

Alan Johnson, chief deputy for the Nez Perce County sheriff’s office, says both the police department and deputies from his agency can have suspects’ blood drawn at the Nez Perce County Jail when needed. If the suspect refuses to comply with the blood draw, Johnson said the officers can use a restraint chair typically used to immobilize disruptive jail inmates.

Such measures are rare, he said.

“It’s a very small percentage,” Johnson said. “The majority of individuals who are arrested and brought into the detention facility and are offered the breath test normally comply.”

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