Police in McHenry County will be out for blood with drivers who refuse to take breath tests for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
And the practice of officers immediately seeking blood draws from those who won’t submit to a breath screen appears to be spreading, with Lake County also planning to adopt a similar policy.
The strategy in many departments takes advantage of technology that allows police to generate an “e-warrant” that can be sent electronically to a judge for review right from a curbside traffic stop.
Law enforcement authorities say their main targets are repeat offenders who not only are the biggest public hazards but also know how to game the system by refusing to take breath tests, making it harder for them to be successfully prosecuted.
“These repeat offenders are some of the most dangerous people out there,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”
Critics counter that such tactics infringe upon constitutional rights or, at best, could be overly burdensome to emergency room staffs who might have to handle the blood draws.
“It’s just another way for prosecutors and police to use fear and intimidation on ordinary citizens,” said well-known DUI defense attorney Don Ramsell.
Many police departments in the Chicago area already will seek blood draws from those who decline breath tests. Before online e-warrants, some counties had a rotation of on-call judges who would review search warrants at night or on weekends, often at home.
But generally, and in counties including DuPage, the practice is limited to more serious cases, where there’s been an accident with injuries or death or a suspect appears to be a repeat offender.
Kane County also was something of a pioneer in establishing targeted campaigns known as “no-refusal” weekends, sometimes geared around events like St. Patrick’s Day or the Super Bowl, about a decade ago.