Proposed bill could change rights regarding DWIs

The ACLU opposes the so-called vampire provision.

The Crime Prevention Committee passed a bill that brings up dissenting opinions from civil organizations about violations of individual's rights regarding driving while intoxicated.

The bill was passed by the house Wednesday and held a public hearing in the Senate on Monday night. The DWI bill defines how evidence is taken from suspected offenders and redefines punishments for prior and persistent offenders driving under the influence.

The DWI bill states an officer would be able to extract a blood sample from a person if they are assumed to be under the influence. A police officer is not considered civilly liable unless he extracts a large amount.

"If the person is transported to the hospital, they're not in shape to go to CPD and use the breath instrument," Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Jessie Haden said in an e-mail. "So they can give consent to have hospital personnel draw blood or if they've injured someone, we do it regardless."

American Civil Liberties Union lobbyist John Coffman said several rights are jeopardized under this new rule.

"That is called the vampire provision," Coffman said. "We think it violates several constitutional protections, including the right to not self-incriminate."

If unprescribed drugs are found in the person's system, police are able to specify that a person is drugged, the bill states.

Any person who pleads guilty to driving while under the influence is not able to take back the plea in court. Coffman said the plea could possibly be rebutted only if the offender can hire a drug-testing expert. Coffman also said the court may be able to offer a lawyer to the offender, but taxpayers would most likely be paying for the court costs per case.

The minimum imprisonment for a prior offender was changed from five days to 10 days and was changed from 10 days to 30 days for a persistent offender, the bill stated.

A prior defender is no longer defined as a person who had a former DWI within five years of the present charged DWI. The bill also states an offender with a BAC of .15 or more would now considered a class A misdemeanor instead of a class B misdemeanor.

Haden said the DWI bill changes would not be a foreign concept to officers.

"It seems like our laws get tweaked and changed every legislative session, so we just roll with it," she said.

ACLU Executive Director Dan Winter said he does support harsher provisions for multiple DWIs, but the government can implement programs that can help offenders.

"There are other ways to discourage driving under the influence," Winter said in an e-mail, "(Those charged) should be sentenced to treatment because addiction is an illness."

Winter also said in an e-mail he is a recovering alcoholic who believes drunk driving should be dealt with more seriously than it is in Missouri.

"The idea that the state can force citizens to give a blood sample is, I think, too extreme," Winter said.

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