Police in McHenry County will be out for blood with drivers who refuse to take breath tests for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Nine departments in the northwest suburban county announced they will seek immediate search warrants during traffic stops to draw blood from suspected drunken or drugged drivers who refuse to blow for a breath test.
The new policy is meant to counter drivers, particularly repeat DUI offenders, who increasingly refuse breath tests, which makes it more difficult to prosecute them, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said in a news release.
Starting Sunday, police in Algonquin, Cary, Harvard, Huntley, Johnsburg, Lake in the Hills, McHenry, Spring Grove and Woodstock will institute the new policy.
Woodstock police Chief John Lieb said in the release that the policy will deter some people from driving while impaired.
While DUI suspects face severe civil penalties if they refuse a breath test — like driver’s license suspensions — police generally can’t force a suspect to submit to a blood test.
If the warrant is granted by a judge, the suspect will be taken to a nearby emergency room, where blood will be drawn and tested for alcohol and drugs.
The policy will be aided by an electronic warrant system launched last year, allowing police to generate an e-warrant that can be sent electronically to a judge for review. Officers can also communicate with a judge through teleconferencing and ultimately obtain a warrant through a judge’s electronic signature, if the judge agrees.
“The days of drunk drivers refusing to blow thinking that they can beat a DUI charge are coming to an end,” Kenneally said. “This new policy means that we’re going to ensure we have all the evidence we need to successfully prosecute drunk drivers every time.”
In addition to holding offenders accountable, Cary police Chief Patrick Finlon said in the release that the initiative “will create strong cases for the prosecution, thereby encouraging a defendant to seek plea negotiations, reducing the need for investigating officers to appear in court, and improving law enforcement patrol staffing.”