Last night on the late-night radio program Coast to Coast AM, host George Noory began his show by reading various news items of particular interest to those who follow “offbeat” topics in his listening audience. One of the stories Noory touched on has to do with an article written by Dianna Cahn, a Staff Writer Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The story reads that “On Feb. 27 and 28, the Sheriff’s Office plans to apply for a search warrant from an on-call judge for anyone refusing a breath test, to take a blood sample, according to a memo by Captain Patrick Kenny, head of the agency’s traffic division.”
Normally, only in extreme incidents involving serious injury or death are officers allowed to take a blood sample from a motorist suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. New measures designed to obtain on-spot search warrants with intent of forcing a blood sample from all DUI suspects is not only controversial, but has already been defeated in some courts.
Former DUI prosecutor Michael A. Cohen, now a a member of the DUI defense law firm Essen, Essen, Susaneck, Charnota & Cohen based in South Florida, says “They are opening up a can of worms, (and) are trying to act outside the law.” With his background in criminal prosecution, Cohen questions the legality of the operation, saying, “As far as I am concerned it is unconstitutional. Under Florida law we are given as drivers an option, really a right, to refuse. If you haven’t hurt anybody and haven’t killed anybody, they have no right to take your blood.”
Are measures to crack down on drunk driving in the state of Florida—or anywhere else, for that matter—really worth such “vampiric” practices? Something about this strange set of circumstances does seem fundamentally wrong in many ways. However, Florida is not the only state in which the legal system chooses to involve itself in such practices. According to the Web site Drunk Driving Defense, “In Georgia, the officer can choose ANY or ALL types of tests – blood, breath and urine,” whether or not the driver is unconscious at the scene of an accident. In the event that drugs are suspected as the source of impairment, most states allow officers to take blood and/or urine samples.
Still, this doesn’t change the fact that Florida motorists who are merely stopped on suspicion of alcohol impariment will be issued blood tests if they refuse a breathalyzer. As Noory pointed out last night during his broadcast, “how will we know if the needles they use are clean?” Indeed, not every officer of the law in the state of Florida can be expected to also be a trained medical professional. Is this constitutionally un-sound, and furthermore, do such practices not only infringe on civil liberties, but also present possible health risks?