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Blood test procedure changes in suspected DUIs

High court ruling means police need warrants to test blood

JANESVILLE, Wis. - A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court could have far-reaching implications on how law enforcement catches drunken drivers.

In the past, if a suspected drunken driving suspect refused to give a breath test, he or she would typically get blood drawn. If the individual also refused that blood draw, police had methods to get it anyway.

A recent ruling from the nation's highest court changed that procedure, and law enforcement will have to get a warrant issued by a judge.

Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden said the high court's ruling means deputies will now have email access to judges from their squad cars. He said the judges will also have a phone conference with the deputies.

"The judge will then sign off on the search warrant, it will then be sent back via email to the officer, and a copy will then be produced," Spoden explained. "Then we can proceed with drawing the blood forcibly, if necessary."

The deputy police chief in Janesville, John Olsen, said the police department is also working to get its officers up to speed on how the ruling will impact their work.

"It not only impacts the police, it impacts the district attorney's office [and] it impacts the judges," Olsen said. "We all have to work together to make it work."

Olsen said the agency has already given its officers the tools they need, including laptops and printers in their squad cars.

"The forms are all on the laptops, so they can type that information on the search warrant, print it and take it to a judge to get signed," Olsen said.

Spoden said he's not expecting this process to cost any additional resources that would hinder OWI enforcement.

"This is just one more layer that we'll have to overcome," Spoden said. "We're grateful we have the technology available to do so and do so in an efficient manner."

Deputies had to draw blood from drunken driving suspects about 77 times last year. Spoden said less than 30 percent of those cases were drawn by force, and an even smaller number of that percentage would require the new procedure.

The sheriff said the department is also talking to law enforcement agencies across the border to make sure agencies throughout the region are on the same page.

VIDEO: Blood test procedure changes in suspected DUIs

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