"No refusal" DUI checkpoints could be coming to Tampa

11:45 AM, Dec 30, 2010   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida-- With New Year's Eve only days away, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expects this to be one of the deadliest weeks of the year on the roads. 

But now a new weapon is being used in the fight against drunk driving.

It's a change that could make you more likely to be convicted.

"I think it's a great deterrent for people," said Linda Unfried, from Mother's Against Drunk Driving in Hillsborough County.

Florida is among several states now holding what are called "no refusal" checkpoints.

It means if you refuse a breath test during a traffic stop, a judge is on site, and issues a warrant that allows police to perform a mandatory blood test.

It's already being done in several counties, and now Unfried is working to bring it to the Tampa Bay area.

"I think you'll see the difference because people will not drink and drive.  I truly believe that," she said.

Not everyone is on board, though.

DUI defense attorney Kevin Hayslett sees the mandatory blood test as a violation of constitutional rights.

"It's a slippery slope and it's got to stop somewhere," Hayslett explained, "what other misdemeanor offense do we have in the United States where the government can forcefully put a needle into your arm?"

The federal government says Florida has among the highest rates of breathalyzer refusal.

"Now you've got attorneys telling their clients, don't blow, don't blow!  Because we know from the results from these machines that they're not operating as the state or the government says they're supposed to operate," said Stephen Daniels, a DUI consultant and expert witness.

Supporters, though, say you could see the "no refusal" checkpoints in the Bay area by October.

"We don't want to violate people's civil rights.  That's the last thing we want to do, but we're here to save lives," Unfried said.

She adds that this type of checkpoint would be heavily advertised, with the goal of deterring any drunk driving.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has recently said he wants to see more states hold similar programs.

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