A policy that seeks to ensure evidence is obtained from suspected drunk drivers has been endorsed by the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
The Association has issued the first of its recommended best practices to the state’s prosecuting attorneys, and one of those is that prosecutors develop a “no refusal” policy for DWI cases, and work with law enforcement to develop standard procedures.
People pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in Missouri have the right to refuse a breath test. An officer can request a warrant for a blood sample from a suspect, but paper warrants can require officers to seek approval from the prosecutor and then physically visit a judge to secure the warrant. The time involved means such warrants are often not sought.
Under a “no refusal” policy, law enforcement can seek a digital search warrant that can be processed and authorized by the court electronically. Officers can have a warrant in minutes.
Executive Director Jason Lamb urges all prosecutors to institute such a policy.
“Aggressive and consistent DWI investigation and prosecution really amounts to homicide prevention,” says Lamb.
Lamb says such policies give law enforcement another tool to be persistent in their pursuit of DWI investigations.
“In a burglary case there’s evidence, usually, of some time of stolen property or burglar’s tools and we wouldn’t hesitate to seek a search warrant in that case. In a murder case there might be evidence of a weapon and we wouldn’t hesitate to seek a warrant in that case. In a rape case there might be evidence of DNA and we wouldn’t hesitate to seek a search warrant in that case,” says Lamb. “In DWI cases the best evidence is of course inside the defendant’s body – the blood alcohol content. It’s simply a matter of seeking a search warrant to obtain that evidence, to have it available for trial in every single DWI case.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving backs the institution of “no refusal” policies. Director of Court Monitoring Bud Balke says it would allow officers to move more quickly to secure evidence.
“With the refusal policy in place we think it’s a wonderful system. We believe that it does enhance what the law enforcement’s able to do. It actually makes it easier for prosecutors to actually prosecute these types of cases,” Balke says. “It makes it easier on judges, even, when they are able to sign those electronic warrants … it’s a positive all the way around I think for everyone involved except for the offender.”
Miller County in June became the latest county in the state to adopt such a policy. Lamb says 10 to 15 counties in the state now have it in place.