Officers Face Lawsuit over DWI Blood Test

Austin and Travis County are facing a civil lawsuit from a woman who alleges its law enforcement officers drew blood in violation of her constitutionally protected civil rights. The suit claims that during her arrest, law enforcement officers strapped her to a chair, put a bag over her head, and choked her “until her body went limp” in order to draw her blood. The lawsuit asserts that this use of force against Ms. Calloway was “excessive.”

On February 4, 2013, Caroline Calloway, age 24, was arrested for suspected DWI, drug possession, and resisting arrest by officer Patrick Oborski—these charges are still pending in court.

The officer’s statement says that he suspected that Calloway may have been driving in an inebriated state after he saw her run two red lights in the downtown Austin area. Additionally, the officer claims that Calloway smelled heavily of alcohol.

Calloway submitted to field sobriety tests but refused to take a breathalyzer test. After she refused, she was arrested and the officer obtained a blood warrant to test for her blood alcohol content (BAC). The officer’s arrest report states that Calloway became “defiant” and needed to be strapped to a chair because she refused to allow a nurse to draw her blood for the test.

DWI Accusations & Blood Warrants

Under Texas law, if a driver does not consent to a blood test, a law enforcement officer can obtain a blood warrant from a magistrate to test a suspected drunk driver’s BAC.

The law enforcement officer only has to illustrate that he/she has probable cause to believe that the driver was operating a motorized vehicle while appearing intoxicated and that the test can provide evidence that the driver’s BAC is above the state’s legally permissible level, 0.8. Once the officer has obtained the blood warrant, Texas law allows him/her to use reasonable force to obtain the blood sample.

The law states that blood tests do not have to be administered in a hospital setting. However, they must be administered by a medical professional; EMTs do not qualify. In Ms. Calloway’s case, her blood test was administered by a nurse in the jail facility where she was being held.

When Officers Request Blood/Breath Test

Ms. Calloway was well within her legal right to refuse to take the breathalyzer test in the field. However, if a law enforcement officer requests a breath or blood test from a suspected drunk driver at the police station, the refusal can lead to additional charges and penalties against the accused if a magistrate issues a blood warrant.

Therefore, it is advisable to acquiesce to requests for breath and blood tests administered at the police station. The administration and results can later be challenged in court.

If you are suspected of DWI and arrested, contact an experienced DWI attorney immediately. The specialized DWI defense team at our law firm are qualified and experienced with Texas DWI cases and offer free consultations. Call us at 713-489-7373 to get started.

Houston DWI Lawyer/Scientist Tad Nelson