“Vamp” Art Acevedo- Austin, Texas Police Chief
By SHELTON GREEN
A little known Texas law which goes into effect September 1, 2009 will dramatically change the way Texas law enforcement officers draw blood from suspected drunk drivers.
The way it stands now, a person involved in an accident will automatically have his or her blood drawn if they’re involved in an accident where there’s a death or serious bodily injury. However, Senate Bill 328, which passed in the last Texas legislative session, means that anyone involved in a crash, whether they’re suspected of drunk driving or not and where there’s bodily injury, severe or not, or has a child in their car, or previous D.W.I. convictions, will have blood drawn automatically within a matter of minutes.
“I was just sick and tired of Texas law that allowed the defendant to destroy the very evidence that we need to protect society,” said John Bradley, the Williamson County District Attorney.
Currently police officers in Texas have to get a search warrant to draw a person’s blood. Bradley says the process can take up to several hours.
Under S.B. 328 an officer doesn’t need a search warrant changing the blood drawing process from hours to a matter of minutes.
“Police officers are going to be saved a lot of time and energy and trouble in their D.W.I. investigations and be able to directly collect the most powerful evidence of intoxication which is the blood and the body of the drunk person,” added Bradley.
The Williamson County D.A. says he approached Senator Dan Gattis of Williamson County about authoring S.B. 328 after the December 2003 arrest of Gary Gibbs, a truck driver who was stopped in Georgetown because other drivers saw him weaving while he was driving an 18-wheeler truck.
Gibbs had seven prior D.W.I. convictions and on his 8th he was sentenced to life in prison.
Some in the community are now questioning the constitutionality of S.B. 328.
“I’m quite sure that this is going to wind up in courts,” said Jody Barton, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
“We’re going down this road of taking away more and more liberties and laws like this don’t really do anything to stop drunk driving all they really do is give the police more power to intrude upon people’s liberties,” adds Barton.
In Austin and in Williamson County staff members are being trained as pflebotomists to draw blood.
However Bradley told KVUE that there are some jurisdictions in Texas where police officers themselves are being trained to draw blood.