Forced blood draws nothing new to Coastal Georgia - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Forced blood draws nothing new to Coastal Georgia

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

Forced blood draws for driving under the influence may be coming to Chatham County this summer.

It's an issue that has sparked a lot of discussion on social media since the story broke on Monday, garnering more than 250 shares on WTOC's Facebook page, and nearly as many comments.

While the topic is sparking a lot of debate, it's not entirely new in the Coastal Empire.

Garden City Police were one of, it not the first department, in the state to try this in 2011. They've had a municipal court judge at road blocks to sign warrants for DUI suspects' blood.

One Savannah judge said by phone if Metro Police or state troopers try to get a lawful warrant to draw a suspect's blood, they'll treat it like any other warrant.

Local DUI attorneys are worried about the unintended consequences of sticking a needle in a driver's arm without their consent.

In a YouTube video, paramedics strapped down a DUI suspect in Wyoming and forced him to give a blood sample.

One Garden City paramedic has done nearly a dozen blood draws.

"I haven't had anything near that drastic," said Lt. Chris Mills, a paramedic with Southside Fire.

The blood draws happen in an ambulance or at jail.

"Everybody has been compliant once they've seen that a warrant has been served," he said.

In January, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the practice as legal. Opponents say it's intrusive, but Garden City Police said it's necessary to keep the streets safe.

"It's no different from getting a warrant to search your house of search your car," said Garden City Police Chief David Lyons.

It's all about getting DUI arrests to hold up in court. Lyons' goal is to keep drunk drivers from being able to plead their cases to lesser offense like reckless driving.

"We're going to get a warrant," said Lyons. "We're going to do a blood draw, and you're going to get charged with a DUI."

Opinions on these forced blood draws are far from unanimous across the country though. Pooler Police said they support the practice as lawful, but will only use it in a DUI accident involving serious injury ot death, not the average traffic stop.

Copyright 2014 WTOC. All rights reserved.

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