Posted: Jun 17, 2014 2:03 PM by Nicole Neidenberg, KOMU 8 Digital Producer
Updated: Jun 17, 2014 3:04 PM
MILLER COUNTY - A new tool in Miller County is allowing law enforcement officers to conduct search warrants within a few minutes of stopping a DWI driver without having to leave their patrol car.
The new "no refusal" policy relies on digital transmission of documents and electronic signatures, which can be processed and issued electronically by the court to authorize a blood draw. Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Howard has authorized law enforcement officers in Miller County to seek a digital search warrant at their discretion in any DWI case.
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 the old paper-bound procedure required a lot of time to find a judge to sign a warrant after obtaining approval from the prosecutor.
"Most refusals come from repeat offenders or those who have thought out an advance strategy about how to evade a DWI ticket. 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," Howard said.
In the past, search warrants were typically utilized only in felony cases involving death, injury or when a suspect was a chronic DWI offender.
Howard noted that blood testing is a more accurate measure of intoxication.
Miller County experienced 37 alcohol related crashes in 2013 resulting in 10 fatalities and 24 injuries.