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Is a police officer able to force a chemical test on a DWI suspect? P.1

Drunk driving is always a problem, but it is certainly a heightened concern during the holiday season. Law enforcement agencies are well aware of this, and utilize a variety of strategies to identify drunk drivers and get them off the road. One of the challenges for law enforcement is obtaining clear evidence of intoxication.  

Law enforcement officers do have the ability to seek breath, blood or urine samples from suspected drunk drivers, but drivers also have the ability to refuse to submit to chemical testing. This doesn’t mean that there are no consequences to refusing a chemical test, but only that a police officer is not able to force a suspected drunk driver to submit to testing, at least under ordinary circumstances.

Under Texas law, an officer is able to require submission to a chemical test in certain circumstances. When an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the suspected drunk driver has been or will cause a death as a result of operating his or her motor vehicle, the suspected drunk driver may be required to provide a sample. A chemical test may also be required in situations where an individual other than the driver has suffered serious bodily injury or bodily injury requiring transportation to hospital or medical facility for treatment.

Chemical testing may also be required of a suspected drunk driver in cases where the driver has a child in his or her vehicle or in cases where the has reliable information from a credible source that the suspect has a prior conviction or has been under community supervision for driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle, intoxication assault, or intoxication manslaughter. The offense does not have to have occurred in Texas, but may also have occurred in another state, provided the offense(s) contains elements which are substantially similar to Texas law.

In an upcoming post, we’ll continue looking at this issue, as well as the topic of “no refusal” DWI enforcement.  

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