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Police restrain DWI suspect in effort to force blood sample

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When Kenner police found DWI suspect Troy J. Grassel he was asleep behind the wheel of a car, its motor running and his foot on the brake in the 2600 block of Veterans Memorial Boulevard. An officer awakened him and detected the odor of alcohol, but Grassel would not submit to a field test or breath test to determine whether he was drunk.

So police obtained a court order to draw a blood sample from Grassel, yet even then he wouldn’t submit. In handcuffs and other restraints on the floor of a holding cell at the city jail, he struggled with several officers as an emergency medical technician sought to puncture his arm with a syringe.

Ultimately police didn’t get the blood sample, so they booked him with obstructing a court order as well as fourth-offense DWI, resisting an officer and driving without wearing a seat belt.

The incident, which happened Saturday morning, illustrates the extreme lengths to which some suspected drunk drivers go to avoid getting caught and to which police sometimes go to make their case.

Beginning in 2010, Jefferson Parish authorities stepped up efforts to obtain court orders for blood samples when motorists refuse to take sobriety tests.

But the practice can raise privacy issues, said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. In addition, she said, taking blood exceeds the goal of getting an impaired driver off the road, because even without a blood sample police may arrest a driver for refusing a breath alcohol test.

Police Chief Steve Caraway defended the practice of forcibly drawing blood, saying it helps to prove a DWI case in court. “Our job is to collect the evidence,” he said.

Most suspects comply when faced with a court order, he said, but the penalties for second and subsequent DWI convictions get stiffer.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DWI, call Harmon Smith & Vourvoulias at 504.717.2093 immediately. Our DWI defense attorneys will provide you with the representation you need to protect your rights.

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About Gary Smith

Gary is a founding member of Harmon, Smith & Vourvoulias L.L.C. Gary represents clients whose cases involve maritime and admiralty law and litigation. In addition to practicing law, Gary serves as a State Senator in the Louisiana Senate.Gary Smith's Google+ Profile

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