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THP to enforce 'No Refusal' law in Sullivan County DUI stops

August 15th, 2012 2:48 am by Hank Hayes

FALL BRANCH -- Tennessee law enforcement wants drunk drivers to know they will be out for blood over the Labor Day weekend.

State troopers, local police and prosecutors gathered Tuesday at the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Fall Branch district headquarters to announce their "No Refusal" DUI enforcement campaign will be concentrated in Jefferson and Sullivan counties.

Tennessee's No Refusal law allows law enforcement to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected DUI drivers.

"Last year, we had 10 fatals in the state over Labor Day. ... We want zero fatalities this year," THP Maj. Dean Hurley said.

Tennessee law defines driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent as a crime.

Previously, a suspected impaired driver could refuse a BAC test and face charges of violating the state's implied consent law.

"For years, we've had to read the implied consent law to the suspect, and they could agree to give us a blood sample or breath test or refuse. ... Now the legislature has given us a tool to combat drunk driving," said Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney General Jim Goodwin.

Hurley said seven DUI checkpoints will be set up across Sullivan County during the Labor Day holiday period.

"We're going to do a normal DUI stop ... but once the individual has been charged and they refuse to have their blood drawn, then we will inform them of the new (No Refusal) law," Hurley said.

Hurley estimated officers will probably be able to get a judge to sign off on a warrant ordering a blood test within 30 minutes.

While law enforcement is focusing primarily on two counties, the Department of Safety pointed out the new law may be enforced by any law enforcement officer across the state at any given time.

According to the DOS, the preliminary number of alcohol-related crashes on Tennessee roadways increased 7.5 percent for the first six months of 2012, compared to the same time period last year. THP reported 2,547 crashes involving impaired drivers from Jan. 1 through June 30. That is 177 more than the 2,370 crashes reported during those same dates in 2011. Impaired-driving crashes killed 10,228 people nationwide in 2010, the DOS also noted.

"We always see alcohol as a contributing factor (in crashes)," said Goodwin. "I think this (new law) is a strong first step. ... Being able to ask a judge for a search warrant and draw blood is an incredible tool."

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