Illinois police to extract blood from drivers for sobriety checks

Kane Co. to force DUI suspects to give blood, take breath tests

By Susan Sarkauskas | Daily Herald Staff

http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=191044

Published: 5/15/2008 12:07 AM

(Daily Herald) – Sometime soon, drunken driving suspects in Kane County will have a new choice: Get your blood-alcohol level measured in a breath, blood or urine test, or have your blood drawn involuntarily.

On No Refusal Weekend the option of refusing to take a test will not be available. At least not to drivers arrested by St. Charles, Batavia and Geneva police and Kane County sheriff’s deputies.

Kane County State’s Attorney John Barsanti announced the proposal Wednesday. He refused to say what weekend the program will be instituted. The idea was brought to his attention by First Assistant State’s Attorney Clint Hull, who read about its use in other states.

Illinois law requires people suspected of DUI to submit to testing. Prosecutors are frustrated by advice given by defense lawyers, many of whom recommend on their Web sites that people refuse to take a test if they think they are legally impaired. A case without blood-alcohol evidence is hard to get a conviction on, Barsanti said.

Currently, if you are a first-time misdemeanor DUI arrestee older than 21 and you refuse to take a test, the state will immediately suspend your driver’s license six months. If you take a test and are over the limit, you typically have your license immediately suspended for three months and, if convicted, receive a one-year suspension.

About 37 percent of first-time suspects arrested in April in Kane County on misdemeanor charges refused to take a test. First-time suspects made up "well over half" of the 158 arrests for misdemeanor DUI that month, according to Christopher Nelson, public information officer for the state’s attorney’s office.

Those with previous DUI convictions who refuse testing have their license suspended for three years. Those who take the test and are found over the limit face, if convicted, having their license revoked. In April, 59 percent of the repeat offenders in Kane County refused to take the test.

"The move here is to refuse," acknowledged Barsanti.

But on No Refusal Weekend, police will seek a search warrant to draw your blood. Search warrants have been written and stored at the Geneva Police Department; all officers have to do is fill in the specific details, have an assistant state’s attorney review it and track down a participating judge, even at home, to sign it. And the Kane County Health Department will supply phlebotomists to do the blood draws. Barsanti anticipates the process will take an hour to 90 minutes to accomplish.

The Kane County DUI Task Force will pay for the costs of the phlebotomists and the eight extra police officers that will work that weekend. It estimates it will cost about $9,000.

Barsanti said he anticipates that when confronted with a judge’s order compelling a blood draw, most suspects will then agree to take the breath test instead, rather than having a needle stuck in their arm. And he said he believes more suspects will accept plea deals rather than go to trial.

"You don’t see cases being tried that have blood (evidence)," Barsanti said.

The testing will happen at the Geneva police headquarters, a central location in the county.

St. Charles, Batavia and the county deputies will get to participate because suspects can be quickly brought to Geneva before much of the alcohol in their blood dissipates.

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