Used to both deter Louisiana residents from driving drunk and to catch suspected offenders, DUI checkpoints are a popular tool for local and state law enforcement. At DUI checkpoints, suspected drivers are stopped and asked to take field sobriety tests or a Breathalyzer test before they are allowed to proceed. Unlike field sobriety tests, which are voluntary and carry no penalties for refusal, refusal to take a Breathalyzer test carries an automatic suspension of the individual’s license.
Despite the consequences, many refuse to undergo the Breathalyzer test because of its propensity for false readings. In 2011, 6,800 individuals suspected of driving under the influence refused the test.
In response, law enforcement has gone one step further, instituting “No-Refusal” checkpoints. In recent news, a No-Refusal checkpoint was conducted in nearby Northshore. Those suspected of drunk driving were given two choices: take a Breathalyzer test or have blood drawn immediately.
This type of checkpoint is not typical; however, it is more popular around Mardi Gras and other major holidays during the year. Nick Manale, a spokesperson for the Louisiana State Police, said that “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.” (We might see a No-Refusal checkpoint in New Orleans around St. Patrick’s Day.)
During the Northshore checkpoint, a judge remained on standby to issue search warrants allowing the registered nurse at the scene to draw blood.
No-Refusal checkpoints, though championed by law enforcement, have garnered criticism from a variety of organizations, including the ACLU of Louisiana. They have questioned “the validity of search warrants issued so quickly and medical privacy issues connected to the blood work being collected.”