A recent incidence involving a traffic stop for suspected impairment has many people wondering exactly how far police can go to secure an arrest? It was a Friday night in Phoenix when a 47-year-old driver was pulled over after observed speeding and weaving in and out of their designated lane. The man’s speech was slowed, and his pupils were dilated, red and watery. He confessed to the officer that he had smoked marijuana just a few hours before and consumed a sedative the evening prior after he failed a field sobriety test. After passing a breath test, the officer confirmed he hadn’t been drinking but suspected that his driving was impaired by drug consumption. 

Unfortunately, breath tests cannot detect drugs. What happened next seems almost surreal. A DUI police van arrived on the scene. Inside the van was a table and chair, fashioned as a portable blood testing facility. After the man refused to submit to a blood test, the office filed for an electronic warrant and submitted it to a judge. Within ten minutes, search warrant in hand, the officer drew some of the man’s blood. The results showed active levels of THC in his bloodstream. 

The man was printed, photographed, and received a citation for driving under the influence. In total the stop lasted for almost 80 minutes. 

Growing concerns over drugged driving

As more and more states continue to legalize marijuana while battling an opioid epidemic, extreme measures are being used to pull impaired drivers off the street. In many states, this means mobile blood draws, blood drawing in the police station, and e-warrants. With difficulty screening for drug impairment in the field, mobile blood tests and e-warrants can change the game when it comes to stops for impaired driving. Police say that it is necessary to draw blood as soon as possible to be able to see what the concentration level is when the stop occurred, which is the reason why they are resorting to such extreme tactics. 

What are some concerns this may raise for drivers? 

While drivers are fully aware that driving under the influence of any substance is illegal, even if the substance is legal in the state. Typically, police would require probable cause, such as the pattern of driving, the driver’s physical appearance, and roadside sobriety tests to determine if, in fact, the driver is impaired. If found impaired, often a blood test is used to confirm which substances are behind the impairment. 

Mobile testing facilities can cause some concerns for drivers who may feel that forcing a blood draw is a violation of their constitutional rights to unreasonable search and seizure. While the breath test can be required, blood tests are considered personal property and require a signed warrant by a judge to be drawn. Through the use of e-warrants, which simply need a judge to hit an accept button any time day or night, many feel that this can cause a slow erosion of a citizen’s rights. If judges are constantly inundated with e-warrants, will they simply accept without reading the outlined cause? Will it become a sort of rubber stamp processing?

Are there requirements for the process of drawing blood?

There are regulations that the police must follow when drawing blood from someone they believe to be impaired. All police personnel who are authorized to draw blood will have to have successfully completed a law enforcement phlebotomy program though the amount of training time can vary from state-to-state. They also must wear gloves, use new needles, and draw blood in a clean and sanitized environment. 

If you have been arrested for a DUI and feel that you were forced to submit to a blood draw, you should contact an attorney to determine if your rights have been violated. While blood draws are becoming common in more and more states, there is a process and procedure that needs to be followed for the test results to be admissible.