Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sucking the very life out of the Constitution

I've written about at length about "No Refusal Weekends" in Harris County, around Texas and even in other states. Now you have the opportunity to see what happens on a No Refusal Weekend:

This video is from a DWI arrest on July 4, 2009, a No Refusal Weekend. The defendant, Curtis Nelson, was involved in an accident -- he was rear-ended. But he ended up on the wrong side of a forced blood draw because an officer smelled alcohol on his breath and thought he was slurring his words.

At the police station, Mr. Nelson declined a request to submit to a breath test. So, the police got a judge to rubberstamp a warrant authorizing them to draw blood. The entire process makes a mockery of the Constitution as judges blithely sign off on search warrants without a showing of probable cause.

Just to put this in perspective. In Texas a citation for a moving violation is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 (except in a couple of specific cases). One step above a traffic ticket is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. DWI is a Class B misdemeanor -- one step removed from a traffic ticket. A lowly misdemeanor and we're subjected motorists to forced blood draws. Why? Because people have learned enough about breath tests to know you're generally better off not blowing. And so the prosecutors and judges get together and decide to subvert the 4th Amendment in the name of making it easier for the state to convict motorists of driving while intoxicated.

You don't see judges signing off on warrants on the spot to take blood and hair samples from persons arrested for sexual assault or murder. But we have no compunction about forcing a needle into someone's arm who is accused -- that's right, accused -- of driving while intoxicated.

Luckily for Mr. Nelson, Harris County Criminal Judge Jay Karahan saw it for what it was and suppressed the results of the blood draw.

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