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Christian County No Refusal Policy Cracking Down on Suspected Drunk Drivers

A judge can issue a search warrant to seize a blood sample

March 16, 2011|Emily Rittman, Ben Knaup | Reporter, Photographer

Christian County, Mo — A new policy in Christian County is cracking down on suspected drunk drivers by prohibiting many from refusing a chemical test. The strategy that just started this week is a countywide "No Refusal Policy."

Before stricter DWI laws went into effect last August -- if someone refused to submit to a breath test they would lose their license for a year. Under the new law if there is enough probable cause a judge can issue a search warrant to collect a blood sample. “We met with prosecutors and they are either going to come here or we are going to meet at the jail whatever the quicker process is going to be,” Nixa Police Lt. Jimmy Liles said.

If prosecutors believe there is enough probable cause, they will ask a judge for a search warrant. A judge will have to approve the application and issue the search warrant. “How quickly can that search warrant be executed to where it would be effective and reasonable to issue to find a blood alcohol content that is accurate at the time the person is pulled over,” defense attorney Bruce Galloway questioned.

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Police say the process is not too time consuming. “It’s usually a fairly limited amount of time usually based on drive time,” Liles said. Still Galloway believes the change in Missouri DWI laws will likely be challenged. “Automatically in Christian County a criminal consequences occurs because a person is seized for a period of time necessary for the court to issue a warrant,” Galloway said.

Prosecutors and police say the policy is aimed at stopping those who try to get around the law. According to the prosecutor’s office, on average 22.4% of suspected drunk drivers refuse to blow. “The Constitution and Missouri statute give the driver the right to call an attorney before giving a chemical test by all means that call is more important than ever,” Galloway said.

Nixa police and the Christian County Sheriff's Office will have medical personnel take the blood samples at the police station or jail. As of Wednesday night, neither agency says they've had a driver refuse a test. “The ultimate goal is to get that word out so there is less people driving impaired on the road way,” Liles said. “I think once the word gets out we are going to have less refusals because I think they are going to realize they'd rather blow than go through that process of obtaining a search warrant.” Prosecutors say samples may also be taken on the scene or nearest medical facility.

Missouri's new DWI laws took effect last August. The changes also increase jail time for repeat offenders and those with blood alcohol levels upwards of .15%. Christian County’s “No Refusal Policy” began March 14.

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