A new online reporting system is being tested in parts of Travis County, Leander and Liberty Hill. The Law Enforcement Advanced DWI/DUI Reporting System allows an officer in the field to send a DWI blood search warrant directly to a judge.The current setup requires a cop to track down a judge to physically sign the warrant before a suspect can be taken to a hospital for a blood-test. While Travis County is a bit ahead of the curve, many rural counties and municipalities must sometimes drive several miles and wait several hours before a magistrate will sign a warrant, often resulting in spoliation of otherwise viable blood evidence.
This may seem like common sense, but Texas has had internal conflict with implied consent and blood draws for several years. Implied consent law suggests that your ability to drive is a privilege and drivers consent to law enforcements otherwise illegal infringement on our 4th amendment protections from search and seizure the moment we get behind the wheel. Often times, when individuals refuse to comport to these implied consent searches, such as standard field sobriety tests (think walk and turn or count backwards from 300 while patting your head and rubbing your belly, just kidding, not really kidding), or providing samples of breath and blood, these refusals have collateral consequences. These consequences include driver’s license suspensions, required installations of interlock devices or home alcohol monitoring devices and a plethora of other restrictive bond and probation conditions.
Because so many people refuse to comply with these implied consent searches (called a total refusal), often times blood draw warrants are law enforcements only mechanism to secure evidence of intoxication. Once the driver refuses these tests, the clock starts to tick on law enforcement’s ability to obtain this blood draw.
“The time from the stop, to the blood draw, is cut down exponentially [with this new software],” said Sgt. Ryan Doyle with the Leander Police Department.
It can sometimes take a cop hours to track down a judge depending on the time of day and traffic. Unlike Travis County, many counties in Texas do not have a judge at the jail around the clock to help expedite this process. If that’s the case the cop may have to track a judge down at their home or wherever they might be located at any given moment.
With the new software, an officer will be able to stay at the scene of the DWI stop, send the blood warrant to the judge electronically where the judge can review it, sign it and send it back electronically.
“We can get a blood draw much closer to the time of driving, and create a much more effective case for court,” said Sgt. Doyle.
With any new system, there are some concerns regarding the legitimacy and how effective it will be. Currently there are two judges in Liberty Hill and Leander trained on the system. “I believe they will be more thorough just because it’s new technology and I know it will be challenged,” said Sgt. Doyle.
While this may sound like a winning idea, the battle for blood draw warrants is far from over. Texas has continued to grapple with the legitimacy, scope and consequences of these searches and the laws continue to change.
After this beta test the system will be made available for judges across Texas. However, some Counties, such as Hays, may continue not to pursue these warrants even with this ease of access. Interestingly, Hays County, with its seat in San Marcos, currently has no judge willing to sign these warrants, easy or not, making DWI cases with total refusals very difficult to litigate for prosecutors.
In the meantime, if you find yourself with a DWI charge and in need of a DWI attorney in Austin give us a call.