Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Howard on Tuesday announced his office has joined a growing number of jurisdictions in implementing a "no refusal" policy on driving while intoxicated arrests in Miller County.
The change is being made in cooperation with area judges, the Missouri Highway Patrol and area law enforcement agencies, he said.
Current Missouri law mandates that drivers consent to a chemical test upon arrest for suspicion of DWI, and a refusal to do so can result in automatic loss of driving privileges for one year.
Howard said Miller County authorities now have an additional tool to aid their DWI investigations in the form of a digital search warrant that can be processed and issued electronically by the court to authorize a blood draw.
Howard also said the old paper procedure required printing out pages of documents and physical trips by police officers carrying the warrant around to find a judge to sign after obtaining approval from the prosecutor.
Due to the cumbersome nature of the process and delays involved, search warrants in the past were typically used only in felony cases involving death or injury or when a suspect was a chronic DWI offender.
Howard has authorized law enforcement officers in Miller County to now seek a digital search warrant at their discretion in any DWI case. The new "no refusal" policy relies on digital transmission of the documents and electronic signatures, which allows the search warrant to be in the hands of the officer within a few minutes without having to leave the patrol car or police station.
Howard noted that blood testing is a more accurate measure of intoxication and that he had never seen an instance in his 29 years of experience where the blood showed a lower result than a breathalyzer.
Howard said publicizing the "no refusal" policy may significantly reduce the number of refusals in Miller County and help law enforcement efforts to combat drunken driving.
Thirty-seven alcohol-related crashes were reported in 2013 in Miller County, resulting in 10 fatalities and 24 injuries.
"Most refusals come from repeat offenders or those who have thought out an advance strategy about how to evade a DWI ticket," Howard said. "These are the people we want to focus on and to get the message - if you drive while impaired and get stopped, you will be arrested, you will be tested and you will be prosecuted."