Dallas Police Want Blood Draws Mandatory for All DWI Suspects

The Dallas Police Department wants to make breathalyzers a thing of the past and require all drivers to give blood when they are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Several states, including Arizona, have made mandatory blood draws part of their routine procedure in drunk driving cases and more states are headed in that direction.

The DPD has been holding periodic "No Refusal" holidays and weekends for more than a year. During No Refusal days, everyone arrested for DWI is asked to give a blood sample to test for alcohol. If the driver refuses to consent to the blood draw, then the police get a warrant from a judge, forcing the driver to comply. The blood draw is performed at the police station by a nurse from Parkland Hospital.

The police want to make mandatory blood testing part of their routine DWI procedure for several reasons, including that blood testing generally results in more accurate results than breathalyzers. This can make it more difficult for defense attorneys to raise reasonable doubt about the accuracy of the tests.

Blood tests also allow the police to have a suspect tested for more than just alcohol. While a breathalyzer only tests for the presence of alcohol, a blood test can check for the presence of legal and illegal drugs as well.

The DPD believes that the accuracy of blood tests will lead to more guilty pleas and ultimately, to fewer drunk driving accidents and fatalities in Texas.

The Controversy Over Mandatory Testing

The practice, however, has not been without controversy. Forcing a person to give a sample of his or her bodily fluids raises important questions about the boundaries of individual privacy rights. It also raises constitutional concerns about the rights of individuals to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Sixth Amendment. Finally, mandatory blood testing negates the rights of drivers to refuse to consent to the test in the first place. Under Texas law, drivers can refuse breath and chemical tests, but they may have their driver's license suspended up to 180 days for the refusal.

In addition to the legal concerns over blood draws, there also have been budgetary concerns over paying for such a program. Currently, judges volunteer their time to be available to sign the warrants during No Refusal weekends and holidays. If the program would become permanent policy, however, then judges would need to be available every day, instead of periodically. Early estimates put the costs of implementing a full-time program around $360,000 per year — something the city may not be able to afford in the current economy.

Warrantless Blood Draws

Should the DPD receive authorization to begin a mandatory blood draw program for all drivers, it would be an extension of the rights police officers already have in Texas to take blood from DWI suspects.

Last September, the Texas Legislature passed the Nicole "Lilly" Lalime Act, which permits the police to take mandatory blood draws without a warrant in limited situations. These situations currently include:

  • When a person is arrested for a felony DWI, such as driving while intoxicated with a child passenger, intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter
  • When a person has two or more previous DWI convictions
  • When a person has one or more previous felony DWI convictions
  • When a person is involved in an accident causing death or serious injury requiring emergency room treatment to another

Prior to passage of the Act, the police could not take a blood sample without obtaining the driver's consent or a valid warrant from a judge, which gave rise to Dallas' No Refusal program.

Protect Your Rights

If you have been accused of drunk driving in Texas — whether the police took a blood sample from you or not — speak with an attorney to learn your rights.