Clark County Sheriffs Begin Drawing Blood in DUI Investigations

KATU News interviewed me for their story on Clark County’s new blood draw DUI program. When someone is arrested for DUI, Washington law enforcement has the option of drawing and testing the suspect’s blood to determine whether there are drugs or alcohol present. This typically happens in the situation where the person is suspected of being under the influence of a controlled substance other than alcohol and or when the driver refuses to take the breath test.

Law enforcement has to either have consent from the driver or obtain a warrant from a judge before they can draw the driver’s blood and test it. Obtaining a warrant requires that law enforcement demonstrate that they have probable cause to believe that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Washington law lists those who are qualified to draw blood for purposes of a DUI blood test.

Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Washougal Police Department in partnership with Target Zero and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission are running a pilot program where trained police officers are going to draw blood from DUI suspects. This program is meant to cut costs and make DUI investigations more efficient by streamlining the blood draw process.

This program will be staffed by four deputies and a Washougal police officer is funded by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. The officers have prior experience in the medical field and are certified to draw blood. Having officers available for these blood draws in other jurisdictions have cut costs and streamlined DUI investigations.

Prosecutors prefer having officers obtain a blood test when suspects refuse a BAC test in a DUI investigation. Blood tests can be more accurate than breath tests and they test for most controlled substances. Without these tests and when a driver refuses the breath test, prosecutors are left with field sobriety tests and circumstantial evidence of impairment to try to prove their case to a jury.

Currently, it is taking anywhere from 8 to 12 months for blood results to come back from the lab after a DUI blood draw. Typically, when someone is arrested for a DUI in Washington, they are ordered to appear in court within two weeks where the judge orders conditions of release, which at very least, order the driver not to consume alcohol, but can require more aggressive alcohol monitoring like an ignition interlock device or SCRAM bracelet. Under this program, drivers will continue driving until almost a year out when they may get a summons in the mail.

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