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Sobriety tests no longer optional

New policy orders blood tests at jail

– People suspected of drunken driving can refuse all sobriety tests – from touching a finger to their nose at the scene to refusing to blow into a portable breathalyzer at the police department.

But now, under a new policy enacted by Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards, those refusals will be met with a search warrant, which is a court order, forcing a blood test. The blood test will be administered by nurses at the Allen County Jail and the results sent to the Indiana Department of Toxicology.

The prosecutor's office announced the changes Wednesday.

Too often, when drivers refuse to take the sobriety tests, Richards said, the state has the task of trying to prosecute a crime in which there was no evidence collected.

Anyone who refuses chemical breath tests will have their driver's license suspended for a year, under Indiana law.

Although the new program wasn't announced until Wednesday, Richards said police were using it over the weekend and on four occasions obtained search warrants for blood draws.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Michael McAlexander was on call for the weekend and said he went to two arrests where the individuals suspected of drunken driving refused the tests initially, but when he told them he would obtain the court order, they complied.

The goal, McAlexander said, is to reduce the number of refusals.

Richards said the new practice has nothing to do with the June traffic stop involving Allen County Councilman Paul Moss.

Moss was pulled over by an Allen County sheriff's officer. The councilman refused the field sobriety tests, and before he was taken to the Allen County Lockup for a breathalyzer test, he phoned Sheriff Ken Fries.

Richards said the new policy has been in the works for a while, adding she has long been concerned about the refusals.

The sheriff provided a solution to the problem by offering the jail nursing staff to administer the blood draws, she said.

Anyone who refuses to cooperate with the blood draw after a judge's order is obtained faces two possible penalties, Richards said. They may be arrested for resisting law enforcement or brought into court for a hearing on contempt, she said.

"There's no such thing as a refusal anymore," Richards said.

rgreen@jg.net

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