It's July 2, which means a bevy of new laws went into effect over the weekend (151 by one count). But there's one new law that could directly impact your Fourth of July party planning, and we're here to tell you about it.
The KNS reports this morning on Public Chapter 892. The law amends Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-406 - i.e. the law of implied consent. Which is to say,
Any person who drives a motor vehicle in this state is deemed to have given consent to a test or tests for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of that person's blood, a test or tests for the purpose of determining the drug content of the person's blood, or both tests. However, no such test or tests may be administered pursuant to this section, unless conducted at the direction of a law enforcement officer having reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving while under the influence of alcohol, a drug, any other intoxicant or any combination of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants.
Now we all probably know that if one is pulled over by the police and asked to blow into a breathalyzer, one can request a blood test be given instead. But up until this weekend, one could also refuse to take a blood test too, albeit with the penalty of losing one's license for a year (or more, if you if have a history of DUI's). Here's how the law used to read:
(4) (A) If such person, having been placed under arrest and then having been requested by a law enforcement officer to submit to either or both tests, and having been advised of the consequences for refusing to do so, refuses to submit, the test or tests to which the person refused shall not be given, and the person shall be charged with violating this subsection (a). ... If the court finds that the driver violated this subsection (a), except as otherwise provided in subdivision (a)(5), the driver shall not be considered as having committed a criminal offense; however, the court shall revoke the license of the driver.
But now those blood tests are no longer somewhat voluntary. Public Chapter 892 replaces the first sentence in the above passage with this one:
It's a small little change in phrasing, but it has big consequences. If you say no to a blood test, the police can now order a search warrant to compel you to get one. As the KNS says:Except as required by subsection (f), court order or search warrant, if such person, is placed under arrest, requested by a law enforcement officer to submit to either or both tests, advised of the consequences for refusing to do so, and refuses to submit, the test or tests to which the person refused shall not be given, and the person shall be charged with violating this subsection (a). [Emphasis ours.]
According to the district attorney's office, under this new law, officers in coordination with prosecutors quickly obtain "blood draw warrants" for drivers who refuse blood alcohol testing with the approval of a Knox County judicial commissioner or judge. Once the search warrant is approved, the impaired driver will be taken to the hospital for a blood draw, officials said.
Look. We don't support drunk driving. Not a bit. But we are a little creeped out by this whole idea of a "No Refusal Weekend" - especially one that actually lasts a week, says the KNS:
According to a Knox County District Attorney's Office news release, in an initiative called a "No Refusal Weekend", the Knoxville Police Department, Knox County Sheriff's Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be out in force during the week of the Fourth of July cracking down on impaired drivers. All suspected impaired drivers caught during the enforcement period will be subject to a test to determine the alcohol and drug content of their blood, officials said.According to the district attorney's office, THP troopers will hold their "No Refusal Weekend" from midnight today to 6 a.m. Monday, July 9. Personnel with the Sheriff's Office and Police Department will hold their "No Refusal Weekend" from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday, July 9, officials said.
We'd love to know what Radley Balko thinks, but he's on book leave. So we will just write that while we are fine with keeping drunk drivers off the streets, we are also wary about a slog of warrants being issued with little thought or reason, because that's when those types of things get abused. So be careful this holiday week, y'all -- both those celebrating America with our forefathers' greatest invention, bourbon, and those of you out on the streets every day defending our safety. Our individual freedom is a precious thing and not something to be taken lightly when you hold lives in your hands, whether behind the wheel of a car or behind a shiny badge and gun.