BOISE, Idaho - Police say syringes will help stop drunk driving


BOISE, Idaho — When police officer Darryll Dowell is on patrol in the southwestern Idaho city of Nampa, he'll pull up at a stoplight and usually start casing the vehicle. Nowadays, his eyes will also focus on the driver's arms, as he tries to search for a plump, bouncy vein.

"I was looking at people's arms and hands, thinking, 'I could draw from that,'" Dowell said.

It's all part of training he and a select cadre of officers in Idaho and Texas have received in recent months to draw blood from those suspected of drunken or drugged driving. The federal program's aim is to determine if blood draws by cops can be an effective tool against drunk drivers and aid in their prosecution.

If the results seem promising after a year or two, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will encourage police nationwide to undergo similar training.

For years, defense attorneys in Idaho advised clients to always refuse breath tests, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Christine Starr said. When the state toughened the penalties for refusing the tests a few years ago, the problem lessened, but it's still the main reason that drunk driving cases go to trial in the Boise region, Starr said.

Idaho had a 20 percent breath test refusal rate in 2005, compared with 22 percent nationally, according to an NHTSA study.

Starr hopes the new system will cut down on the number of drunken driving trials. Officers can't hold down a suspect and force them to breath into a tube, she noted, but they can forcefully take blood — a practice that's been upheld by Idaho's Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

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