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DuPage out for blood in war on drunken drivers

DuPage County will have someone call 24/7 draw blood from suspected drunken drivers.   |  Sun-Times MediFile

DuPage County will have someone on call 24/7 to draw blood from suspected drunken drivers. | Sun-Times Media File

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Updated: December 22, 2012 6:36AM

Drunk drivers in DuPage who think they’re clever asking for a blood test when they get pulled over — hoping to stall law enforcement by hours as alcohol in their blood dissipates — will soon have their plans punctured.

DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin announced a new plan Tuesday that will have phlebotomists on call 24/7 to drive to a police station within an hour to draw the blood of any suspected drunken driver who passes on a Breathalyzer test and demands a blood test.

Previously, that meant police typically taking any suspected drunken drivers to a hospital and waiting to have blood drawn.

The program — which took effect Tuesday — is the first of its kind in the state, said Berlin, who added that drivers would be stuck with the phlebotomist’s fee: a minimum of $395.

“It’s just another tool law enforcement can use to get drunk drivers off the street,” said Berlin. The measure drew praise from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“I am wholeheartedly in favor of it,” said Susan McKeigue, director of Illinois MADD.

A driver is legally drunk with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, but the longer it takes to get the blood, the more time the body has to eliminate the alcohol.

“By reducing the time between arrests and blood draws we are able to obtain a much more accurate BAC of the offender at the time of arrest,” said Berlin. “This will allow for a stronger prosecution of suspected DUI drivers.”

But according to leading DUI attorney Don Ramsell, the new initiative could run into constitutional problems under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, because the average police station does not provide the sanitary environment expected during a blood draw to protect against communicable diseases.

“Taking the trash out and making sure the potato salad in the fridge hasn’t gone bad doesn’t count,” said Ramsell.

Berlin said phlebotomists will follow strict Illinois safety protocol. “I don’t see that being a problem,” he said.

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