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Will “No Refusal” Policy for Suspected Drunk Drivers Make Its Way to Virginia?

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In some states, a “no refusal” policy is being instituted on weekends to try and deter drunk driving. During a “no refusal” weekend, state highway troopers can receive a signed search warrant from a judge to obtain the blood of suspected drunken drivers who refuse a Breathalyzer test. Traditionally, a driver can refuse a Breathalyzer test, but will be charged with DWI and receive a year license suspension for a year. However, under the “no refusal” policy, the trooper must show probable cause to get the warrant, according to wwltv.com.

The “no refusal” policy is already in use in nine states. This policy is only utilized during the weekends since it is the time of week where there is a higher likelihood of drunk drivers on the roads. The states using the policy declare that the program is effective since there are fewer drunk driving trials and more convictions.

The federal government is urging more states to consider implementing the “no refusal” policy. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "These are not new laws or regulations. They are efforts to streamline existing procedures while protecting due process to ensure that drunk drivers can’t skirt the consequences of their actions."

The motivation to take stronger action against drunk drivers can be found in disturbing statistics. Close to 11,000 people were killed in alcohol-related car crashes in the U.S. in 2009, according to cbsnews.com. Two-thirds of these alcohol-related driving deaths featured a driver with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) higher than the legal limit of .08.

So will this policy make its way to Virginia (VA)? No one knows for sure. Critics of the policy believe that not allowing people to refuse a Breathalyzer violates their constitutional rights and raises questions about how the blood drawn from the suspected drunk driver is handled.

These are legitimate concerns that will need to be addressed if more states, including VA, decide to adopt some version of this policy. However, given that a new survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 30 million Americans drive drunk over the course of a year, something dramatic needs to be done to deter this type of reckless behavior.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.

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