New GOHS program will certify law enforcement agencies to draw blood from DUI suspects

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The governor’s road safety office is working to certify up to 100 law enforcement officers to draw blood from suspected DUI drivers.

GOHS has launched a new program for law enforcement officers to become certified in phlebotomy practices. The first class begins October 4th and consists of Soldiers, the Georgia State Patrol Night Hawks, and members of the HEAT teams.

Under Georgian law, law enforcement agencies can only take a blood sample from a suspected DUI driver if a person agrees and a search warrant is in place. The US Supreme Court has ruled that the police can also take blood evidence if a suspected drunk or drugged driver is passed out.

According to the authorities, the need is for blood tests to be more accurate than alcohol testers. Proponents have also said that the recent surge in Covid-19 has overwhelmed ambulance services and hospitals, often resulting in blood draws being delayed. With alcohol, the level in the blood decreases by 0.125 grams per hour. In addition, breathalyzers do not measure the presence of medication.

GOHS Director Rogers Hayes told Fox5 Atlanta, “The point of this is to get drunk drivers off the road and disabled drivers off the road. There are so many other impairments, prescription drugs and illegal drugs and alcohol, that the blood will help us test for all of these things. “

Hayes also said knowing that law enforcement agencies can gather evidence quickly could be deterrent and encourage voluntary compliance.

Opponents of the practice say taking blood outside of a traditional medical facility is “unsanitary and e-warrants could violate an individual’s rights”, which has been a point of contention for involuntary blood draws for years. A problem arises when the focus is on gathering evidence as opposed to performing a medical procedure, they say.

“There is absolute potential for a dilution of a citizen’s constitutional protection against improper searches and seizures when done this way,” said Donald Ramsell in a BANK Items. Ramsell is a DUI attorney and a board member of the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “A judge can simply wake up in their bedroom and click ‘Accept’. [on his device] and go back to sleep. “

Additionally, critics say licensing officers to have blood draws puts a burden on the officer and agency, regardless of certification. Certification is generally done in “venipuncture,” which is different from the more in-depth practice of phlebotomy.

In 2016, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the Birchfield versus North Dakota believe that breath tests are not a significant intrusion into privacy, but that blood tests involve piercing the skin. He also said that a blood sample can be retained and analyzed for reasons and information far beyond what can be found in a breath sample.

Several other states allow trained officers to draw the blood of DUI suspects, including Arizona, Minnesota, and Washington.

Traffic delays kill and injure thousands of Americans every year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says alcohol-related accidents claimed 10,874 lives in 2017.

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