Elizabeth L. Parker, Esq.
SUSPECTS REFUSE TO GIVE BLOOD IN DUI CRACKDOWN The Sun Sentinel March 2009 by Dianna Cahn
Surrounded by flashing red and blue lights, the man in red leather sandals lifted one foot off the ground and waited as the deputy kept time. Then, finding that the man had failed the sobriety test, the deputy pulled the man's hands behind his back and shackled them. The man stood in a strip mall parking lot where he pulled over after an undercover deputy noticed him swerving in and out of his lane on Military Trail and he struck the median, said Sheriff's Cpl. Scott Yoder, who assisted with the arrest. The undercover deputy charged the driver with cocaine possession. Then a deputy made the DUI arrest. It was a moment repeated often Friday night, the first of a two-night countywide crackdown on drunken driving that involved more than 100 law enforcement officers. Twenty-six people were arrested Friday night on DUI charges, according to Capt. William Kenny, head of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office traffic division. At least four refused to submit to a blood test, the latest tool officials planned to employ against drunken driving. The Sheriff's Office, working closely with the State Attorney's Office, sparked controversy when it decided to seek a judge-approved search warrant to take blood from anyone who appeared drunk and refused a breath test. Opponents argue that forced blood tests violate Florida statute. But State Attorney Michael McAuliffe said other Florida counties upheld the techniques and the uproar was "much ado about nothing." "I am not sure what the controversy is," McAuliffe told officers before the patrol. "Investigating and prosecuting DUI cases is a high priority. If we can employ techniques proven and used in two areas in this state, I am all for it." So were members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who rode along on patrols in support. "I don't understand the controversy," said Connie Beard, from Central Florida, whose son Matthew was killed in 2006 by a drunken driver on I-95. "I hear people say what about their civil liberties? Where were my son's civil liberties?" she said. "Driving is a privilege, it is not a right. [Drunken driving] is not a mistake. It's a conscious choice. If you drink and drive, you are playing Russian roulette with everyone on that road."
Elizabeth L. Parker, Esq. Four command posts were set up with breath tests, while Palm Beach County Fire Rescue paramedics set up a mobile blood unit at Fire Rescue headquarters west of West Palm Beach. Still, when it came down to it, the State Attorney's Office decided not to forcibly take blood and no blood samples were drawn Friday night. The State Attorney's Office would not comment on its decision but planned to continue to seek search warrants for those who refused breath tests Saturday night. DUI suspects sat in police cruisers and waited their turn at the breath machine. Mark Lajeunesse, 45, of West Palm Beach, waited in a Palm Beach Gardens cruiser that brought him to the command post after midnight following his refusal to blow in the machine. Deputy Assistant State Attorney Elizabeth Parker and Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office officers scurried to prepare a search warrant and faxed it to an on-call judge. Shortly before 2 a.m., deputies walked Lajeunesse to the paramedics van to draw blood. Livid, Lajeunesse refused to go in. "You are going to have to beat me," he shouted. "Take me to jail. You are not taking my blood." Deputies tried to convince Lejeunesse, then put him in a van taking suspects to jail. He was charged with DUI, his third within 10 years, and two counts of resisting arrest, for obstruction and failure to obey a police officer, jail records indicate. With so many refusals, the warrants did not appear effective, said Miami-based DUI attorney Michael Cohen, who argued that under Florida statute, it was illegal to force someone to comply with a blood test unless an accident caused serious injury or death. "I thought the whole point of the warrant was they could strap them down and take it against their will, just like they do with serious bodily injury," Cohen said. "It seems like this failed for them." Still, families and deputies praised the operation. Kenny said that more than 600 citations were issued and there were 15 misdemeanor and felony arrests Friday night, in addition to the DUI arrests. "We need to keep our roads safe," said Barbara Kirkpatrick, whose only child, 19-year-old Jessica, was killed when a drunken driver plowed into the car she was riding in four years ago near Orlando. "My daughter was killed senselessly and all someone had to do was call a cab."