Thursday, March 19, 2009

Making it easier for vampires

Texas State Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) has introduced S.B. 261 that would make it easier for the vampires to draw the blood of citizens accused of driving while intoxicated. State Representative Dan Gattis (R-Georgetown) introduced a companion bill, H.B. 747, in the house.

Currently under Section 724.012(b)(3) of the Texas Transportation Code, "a peace officer shall require the taking of a specimen of the person's breath or blood the time of the arrest, the officer reasonably believes that, as a direct result of the accident: (a) any individual has died or will die, or (b) an individual other than the person has suffered serious bodily injury; and the person refuses the officer's request to submit to the taking of specimen voluntarily."

Sen. Deuell has a problem with some motorists exercising their right to refuse to provide breath or blood specimens. He's upset that citizens involved in accidents in which no one was killed or seriously injured have the gall to force the state to prove they were intoxicated.

Approximately half of the citizens arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated exercise their right to refuse to submit to chemical testing. According to Sen. Deuell, 52% of the Administrative License Revocation cases filed in 2008 involved a breath test refusal. An even higher percentage of citizens with prior convictions for driving while intoxicated refuse to submit to breath tests.

Sen. Deuell is upset that judges and juries prefer to be certain of a citizen's guilt before convicting them of driving while intoxicated and doesn't think it right that law enforcement officers should be held to the requirements of the 4th Amendment when obtaining search warrants to draw blood.

In order to combat these supposed miscarriages of justice, Sen. Deuell is proposing that warrantless blood draws be authorized for any citizen a peace officer suspects is intoxicated who is involved in an accident in which another person suffers bodily injury.

According to Section 1.07(a)(46) of the Texas Penal Code, serious bodily injury refers to any bodily injury "that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ." Bodily injury, on the other hand, per Section 1.07(a)(8) of the Texas Penal Code, is "physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition." That means that any accident in which a suspected intoxicated driver is involved, if anyone else suffers any physical pain, the driver may be subjected to a warrantless forced blood draw.

In no other type of case may a citizen accused be coerced into incriminating themselves by word or by submission to any testing or analytical process; but then no other violation of the penal code is as profitable to the state as driving while intoxicated. The Department of Public Safety stands to make at least $3,000 over the course of three years in surcharge payments for each of those 109,000 citizens arrested for DWI in 2008 as well as another $125 per person for reinstatement of their driving privileges. That comes out to $327,000,000 in surcharge payments and $13,625,000 in reinstatement fees. This doesn't even include the filing fees counties charge to file a petition for an occupational license.

DWI is a cash cow for Texas and that's the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about.


For a slightly different viewpoint, see what Washington DUI Attorney Garth O'Brien had to say.

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