At a press conference Monday, District Attorney Susan Reed discussed the future of DWI blood draws in Bexar County. Effective immediately, drivers who are suspected of driving while intoxicated and refuse to take the breath test are now subject to a mandatory blood draw. In the past, Bexar County had implemented the mandatory blood draw policy during holidays and weekends. However, expanding the policy to every day of the year is unprecedented. According to Reed, “[w]e are now the largest metro area in Texas to have an absolute no-refusal policy.” This policy expansion is made possible by a $1.4 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation.
The county’s strong support for this aggressive policy is a reaction to San Antonio’s DWI statistics over the last few years. As reported in the SA Express News, “[i]n both 2009 and 2010, the period from January through September saw 13 [intoxication manslaughter] cases filed. This year, the number dropped to six.” The enforcement efforts by the county are published on the Bexar County District Attorney’s website and updated on a weekly basis. For the weekend of 10/14 through 10/17, there were 78 people arrested for driving intoxication offenses and 35 blood draws. The sharp decline in DWI related fatalities is not the only factor driving this policy. According to District Attorney Reed, when DWI cases go to trial, there has been a fifty percent acquittal rate for defendants who refused breath tests and who were not compelled to provide a blood sample. By presenting the blood sample as evidence during a trial, the District Attorney’s office hopes to improve their DWI conviction rate. Joyner + Joyner will continue to track the acquittal rates for DWI trials in order to determine the impact of introducing the blood sample as evidence.
People frequently ask us how law enforcement obtains the blood sample. The constitutional issues surrounding this process are beyond the scope of this article, but typically the process is as follows. First, by driving on Texas roadways an individual has given the government implied consent to submit a breath or blood sample upon request by an officer who has arrested him/her for DWI (Texas Transportation Code §724). Once the police officer determines that a blood sample will be taken he/she sends a request for the issuance of a search warrant based upon the police officer’s sworn affidavit stating that probable cause exists. This affidavit has to be reviewed by an impartial judge or magistrate. If the judge determines that probable cause exists, the judge will sign the Search Warrant and Order of Assistance in the Taking of the Blood Sample. The signed documents are sent back to the officer who will then initiate the procedure to obtain the blood sample from the individual.
Another frequently asked question by clients and acquaintances is the impact blood analysis evidence has on a DWI case. First, we must mention that each case is different with facts specific to that particular case. With that said, the new mandatory blood draw policy is designed to bolster the prosecution’s case by providing them with additional evidence supporting the DWI charge against an individual. It is the prosecution’s hope that by presenting the judge (or jury) with blood analysis evidence during trial they can prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant was intoxicated. However, it is extremely important to remember that DWI cases are inherently fact intensive and the details of each case can determine whether a person is convicted or not.
With this aggressive policy now in place, it is more important than ever for individuals charged with a DWI to immediately retain competent legal counsel to prepare an aggressive legal defense strategy and advocate on their behalf. An experienced attorney can identify relevant issues such as whether the: proper procedures were followed for obtaining the warrant to draw blood, proper medical procedures for drawing blood followed, proper chain of custody of the blood sample established and analysis of the sample was properly conducted.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a DWI, contact the attorneys at Joyner + Joyner, P.C. We offer a complimentary case evaluation and can help you make an informed decision.