Houston DWI Cops Practice Drawing Blood from Prisoners in Psychiatric Ward

What is wrong with the title of this?  The real question is what was the Government thinking?  Testing psychiatric patients to further prosecution for DWI arrests is irresponsible at best, and depending on your views, downright despicable.

How far is the Government going to go in its efforts to obtain evidence in Harris County DWI cases?  Should we allow this police state type behavior or are we going to finally say enough is enough in these DWI investigations?  Fortunately, Houston Mayor Annise Parker finally told the Houston Police Department to stop to this particular DWI program. 

So why were the Houston Police officers drawing psychiatric patients blood?  They were there "training" to become phlebotomists - yes that's right, phlebotomists.  The Houston Police Department started training DWI officers to draw blood on suspects arrested for DWI several months ago to negate the necessity of having a qualified medical person take blood in DWI cases. 

According to Stephen Dean at Channel 2, the University of Texas Medical Branch said in a statement,

UTMB’s Correctional Managed Care program has an agreement with Lone Star College involving its Law Enforcement Phlebotomy Program. The participating Houston police officers at the units were there as part of the Lone Star College course they were taking. Having blood drawn is part of the standard intake process at TDCJ and offenders were given the option of having a police officer or a staff phlebotomist perform the procedure. All of the offenders involved chose to allow the police officers to do the procedure.

So every psychiatric patient involved would rather a cop draw their blood than a certified trained professional?  Why would psychiatric patients even be in the pool of persons to "practice" on?  As we say in the legal profession, this just doesn't pass the smell test.  Actually, for a more satirical take on this issue, take a look at Mark Bennett's blog.

Thanks to Mayor Parker for stopping a program that should never have been started in the first place.

A Compliment from a Police Officer - What's the DWI World Coming To?

I had an interesting conversation with a police officer today after an ALR / Driver's License Hearing today related to a client's DWI arrest.  We spoke briefly about the defendant and the facts of the case that we had the hearing on today. 

The police officer went on to thank me for my previous cross examinations of him in the past.  He said that he has changed the way that he conducts his DWI investigations and the way in which he writes his DWI case reports.  Unlike some that we encounter, this police officer takes a great deal of pride in his work and truly wants to "get it right."

Believe it or not, I want police officers to have pride in what they do and do their jobs well.  It was refreshing to hear a police officer thank me for a rigorous cross examination, which is not the norm.  It is also refreshing for the officer to recognize that we all have a job to do in the criminal justice system.  Their job is to investigate and arrest suspects, the district attorney prosecutes and we have a duty to defend.  Thank you officer for recognizing this.

Memorial Day Weekend - Another DWI "No Refusal Weekend" - What Does That Mean?

Houston Police and other Harris County police agencies used this Memorial Day weekend to once again deprive citizens of the privacy we should all have in our own bodies.  Memorial Day weekend was announced as a "No Refusal Weekend" by authorities.

So what exactly is a "No Refusal Weekend?"  If you read the words, you would think that we as citizens of Harris County do not have the right to refuse to give a breath test or blood test if offered by the police.  This could not be further from the truth - you can always refuse to do any of the tests the police ask us to do.  That includes the right to refuse field sobriety tests, breath tests or blood tests.

That brings us back to the question, what is a "No Refusal Weekend?"  If you refuse to give a breath test or blood test, the police are forbidden from taking your blood at that point without a search warrant.  During the "No Refusal Weekend," the government puts together a team of police officers, medical personnel, district attorney's office representatives, nurses, the "bat van" and Judge(s).  The purpose of putting this "DWI TEAM" together is to make getting a search warrant for your blood easier.  The arresting officer will take you to where the "DWI TEAM" is.  The district attorney's office will help the officer draft a search warrant that is then presented to a "Neutral and Detached" Judge.  The Judge signs the warrant and they strap you down and extract your blood.

By refusing to give your breath or blood, the "DWI TEAM" is forced to jump through a few extra hoops which can sometimes lead to problems for the prosecutors.  Don't let the media / police / MADD / District Attorney's PR campaign go unchecked.  I hope that our citizens actually know the law, not what these PR campaigns want them to know.  If arrested for DWI, you absolutely have the right to refuse a breath or blood test.