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DuPage County “No Refusal” Weekend Targets Illinois Drunk Driving

During Labor Day weekend 2011, DuPage County conducted its first “no refusal” weekend in an effort to crack down on drinking and driving. Inspired by neighboring Kane County’s “no refusal” weekend program started in 2008; DuPage County police officers who arrested drivers on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) did not allow those drivers to refuse a chemical test to check their blood alcohol content (BAC).

Phlebotomists (individuals who are trained to draw blood) were on-call during the weekend to assist police if chemical testing was refused. In the case of refusal, police were able to immediately obtain a warrant to draw blood – even if it required force.

Why Was the Program Necessary?

The DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin implemented the no refusal weekend as a response to increasing numbers of arrestees who refuse to take a Breathalyzer test. Berlin cited an Illinois Secretary of State statistic showing that 40 percent of those arrested for DUI in 2006 refused to take a chemical test as justification for the “no refusal” weekend. Berlin also noted that U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics reveal that about 25 percent of drivers arrested for drinking and driving nation-wide refuse chemical tests.

Concerns Over the Program

Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana has expressed concerns over these programs. First, if warrants are issued in assembly-line style no individualized investigation is being completed, which is generally necessary for a valid search warrant. Second, medical privacy is in question, because it is unclear what happens to the collected blood samples. Esman expressed concerns regarding what kind of information law enforcement gather, and how long and where the blood samples are stored.

Currently under Illinois and federal law sobriety checkpoints are permissible as reasonable intrusions, in light of the state’s interest in preventing deaths and injuries that result from drunk driving. Implied consent law in Illinois also allows for suspension of an individual’s driver’s license for refusal to test.

Results of the Labor Day “No Refusal” Weekend

Police arrested about 70 people across DuPage County for suspicion of DUI during the “no refusal” weekend. Six people refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test and police obtained warrants to draw blood from five of them. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also supported the concept of no refusal as a means for cutting down on drinking and driving.

Allowing forcible blood draws shows how seriously authorities take DUI offenses. If you are facing DUI charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can defend your rights.

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