TANGIPAHOA, La. -- Louisiana State Police and local law enforcement agencies cracked down on Northshore drivers Thursday night at a special DUI checkpoint.
Suspected drunk drivers had two choices at the mobile command post: take a breathalyzer test or have your blood drawn on the spot.
Police say this kind of set up isn't the norm, but during the holidays and Mardi Gras season, suspected drunk drivers can have their blood tested in the field to figure out what their blood alcohol concentration might be.
A registered nurse and an assistant district attorney were on standby at the DUI checkpoint in Tangipahoa Parish to help process DUI cases.
Louisiana State Police say a special grant from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission was awarded to a Northshore-based community group called the TRACC Coalition. The grant is helping pay for the no-refusal enforcement strategy, which requires all suspected impaired drivers caught by law enforcement who refuse breathalyzers to have their blood tested for alcohol.
Police confirm that a judge is standing by to issue search warrants by phone, giving a nurse the green light to draw blood.
“Certain parishes throughout the state do have no refusals in place at all times. Most Northshore parishes, most parishes on the south shore, do not do it at all times because it takes a lot of resources, a lot of manpower, to pull it all together,” said Trooper Nick Manale, a spokesman for Louisiana State Police. “So it’s something that we try to save for our traditionally busier times of the year, the holiday season, when you may see an increase in impaired driving, an increase in crashes.”
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission says there were 251 alcohol-related vehicle fatalities across the state in 2011. More than 6,800 dwi suspects refused a breath test that same year.
In the past, critics like the ACLU of Louisiana have questioned the process, including the validity of issuing search warrants so quickly and medical privacy issues connected to the blood work being collected.