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Alcohol Blood Test Debate

January 19, 2002, 6:10 PM by Traci Ripperda

A debate over making KELOLAND roads safer is raising concerns over whether the state is overstepping its bounds when it comes to catching drunk drivers.

Right now, suspects can refuse the test if they're pulled over for the first or second time, unless their involved in an accident.

A bill before the legislature would require everyone suspected of drunken driving to take a blood test. But is forcing people to roll up their sleeves a violation of their rights?

Prosecutors say drunk driving suspects who waive a request by law enforcement for a blood test make it for them to prove their case.

"To determine whether a driver is in fact under the influence or not we know that a blood test is in fact the best evidence," says Dave Nelson, Minnehaha County States Attorney.

Nelson supports a proposal to require all suspects to take a blood alcohol test. But while it might help judge and jury make convictions, some defense lawyers say it's taking the law too far.

"I don't know that it's necessary to do this for DWI, first and second offenses it seems kind of overkill," says Attorney Gary W. Conklin.

If you refuse to take the test your license can be revoked for a year. Which Conklin says many times turns into a guilty plea.

"Instead of having to take the test the person in sense has to plead guilty to keep their driver's license," says Conklin. So he says the law won't result in any more or any less DWI convictions.

"I don't know that we're going to get more or less convictions if we change the law, because of the way it works now the results are essentially the same," says Conklin.

But Nelson says the proposed law will increase convictions because it will help catch drunk drivers who can bluff their way through a sobriety test.

"Those who are conditioned or tolerant enought of the alcohol to be able to walk a straight line and recite the alphabet, who may have a .25 percent alcohol blood level," says Nelson.

But Conklin says this bill is part of a growing trend of laws that take away from a person's basic liberties.

"It's widdling away of the rights," says Conklin. "Anytime someone sticks a needle in your arm or makes them give you a sample of your bodily fluids that an infringement upon your personal rights.

The legislation now moves onto debate on the House floor.

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