State Police to enforce 'no refusal' policy in DWI cases this holiday

Published: Nov. 27, 2013 at 1:12 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 4, 2013 at 2:21 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS - This holiday weekend, there will be an increased police presence on the roadways, and troopers will abide by a "no refusal" policy that takes DWI enforcement to a whole new level.

"This week we do expect a lot of increased traffic across the metropolitan area and, of course, across the state as people try to get to where they are going for the Thanksgiving holidays," said State Police Trooper Melissa Matey. "We are also going to be looking for violators that are causing hazardous situations such as speeding, drunk driving, distracted driving."

In the past, a driver arrested on suspicion of driving drunk could refuse a breath, urine or blood test. Now things are different.

"No refusal means that if you refuse a chemical test once you are arrested for a DWI, that trooper can get a search warrant," Matey said. "That search warrant is for your blood."

A magistrate judge will be on standby to sign the warrant authorizing a forced blood draw from a suspected drunk driver.

"There are numerous parishes around the state that participate in no refusal 24/7 throughout the year, however during Thanksgiving you will see additional parishes that come on and promote the no refusal," Matey said.

While it may seem like an invasion of privacy, the courts have ruled it constitutional in Louisiana.

"In Louisiana they've got it set up so that they get warrants so that obligates that issue," said FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti. "They are using these things in court right now."

Raspanti said there are some concerns.

"Criminal defense attorneys like myself who represent people for DWIs still have a problem with giving information to any law enforcement, and that means giving a breathalyzer or giving your blood," he said. "But now it's deemed legal with a warrant."

Raspanti said he advises his clients to never voluntarily consent to a chemical test.

"It depends on when they take your blood," he said. "It depends on how it's taken. I'm just telling you - people who do this for a living, which I am one, do not encourage our clients to give breath or blood or take the field sobriety test or do anything."

Of course, law enforcement sees it differently.

"Make the right choices before you get behind the wheel," Matey said. "Make sure that you get a sober driver or call a taxicab, because it is much cheaper than getting a DWI."

According to State Police, of the more than the 700 people killed in fatality accidents in Louisiana this year, 40 percent of them were alcohol related.