Drunk Driving Arrests Made Faster Through Blood Draws in Police Stations
By Trisha Cerdena | Mar 08, 2017 08:19 AM EST
Law enforcement members and health care providers can now take advantage of a new state law allowing paramedics to draw blood from suspected drunk drivers for testing when given consent. This law pushes for blood draws within a controlled environment, particularly in police stations, instead of hectic hospital emergency rooms.
However, there have been legal and procedural issues that have prevented the implementation of such law on blood draws that was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2016. According to the Pennsylvania State Police and medics in New Kensington, a medical protocol for blood draws is yet to be developed.
Bureau of Public Health Preparedness spokesman Nate Wardle issued an official statement about drawing blood from suspected drunken drivers in police stations, as reported by Trib Live. “So far, no providers have submitted protocols for approval by the Department of Health, as required by the law,” Wardle said. “Statewide protocols will not be issued because of potential differences from municipality to another municipality on how law enforcement or district attorney's offices may collect and manage evidence.”
On the other hand, criminal defense attorneys do not support such law on blood draws as it could cause a range of problems. For instance, a lack of procedures could cause an issue as the proper protocol is crucial in protecting the accused and their legal rights. “There is a two-hour window when blood alcohol levels can be drawn and the police would have to find a magistrate who is familiar with the law and procedures and how to establish probable cause in drunken-driving cases,” attorney Duke George explained.
For urban areas where hospitals are situated nearby, police officers typically bring people to hospitals for blood draws despite having to spend a long time waiting rather than going back to patrol. Still, Pittsburgh State Rep. Dom Costa argues that the law on blood draws can have a direct and significant impact on saving lives.
“At police stations, officers could lock up their handguns, so there won't be a chance for a combative person to grab for it,” he said. Municipalities can raise up a contract with a medic unit that will conduct the draws while officers on duty can mark the samples and send them over to the laboratory within a specified time frame, as noted by The News Tribune. This could also be a quicker process for the suspect whose blood will be drawn at a police station and be released to his or her family.