Over six months police in Dalworthington Gardens have taken blood samples from 32 motorists stopped for suspected drunk driving. The small police department in the Tarrant County, Texas suburb of Fort Worth, Texas initiated the controversial strategy after training its officers to draw blood to test for blood alcohol content (BAC).
For drivers who refuse to cooperate, Deputy Chief Jerry Vennum says a local judge is on-call to sign a warrant requiring the blood sample. Vennum says that of the 32 drivers stopped for suspicion of DWI, all agreed to give blood. "There’s been no wrestling with someone to take their blood or anything like that."
The legality of the program is based on a 20-hour training course police officers took in order to become certified to draw blood. Section 724.017 of the Texas code requires that, "Only a physician, qualified technician, chemist, registered professional nurse, or licensed vocational nurse may take a blood specimen at the request or order of a peace officer…. ‘qualified technician’ does not include emergency medical services personnel."
The policy of requiring drivers stopped for suspicion of DWI to provide a blood sample is also employed by police in Fort Worth and the North Texas counties of Montague, Archer and Clay. In Fort Worth the police do not actually draw the blood though they do use the threat of force and employ warrants to secure samples. Results show that innocent drivers have been required to provide blood.
The police departments are attempting to use the blood tests to counter growing evidence that breathalyzer tests are inaccurate, which has been DWI defense attorneys strategy in courtroom challenges. The new policy calls for taking DWI suspects to a police station and asking them to voluntarily provide a blood sample. If they refuse, a judge can issue a warrant allowing police to draw blood, including by force. Even if not formally charged with or convicted of a crime, those refusing a blood test will lose their driver’s license for six months.
There has not been a legal challenge yet to this practice.