THP DUI 'no refusal' crackdown starts July 3rd - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

THP DUI 'no refusal' crackdown starts July 3rd

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

The state of Tennessee hopes changes in DUI laws will make drunk drivers sober up and be responsible this July 4th holiday.

In 2012, the Tennessee Highway Patrol made nearly 600 DUI arrests in the Tennessee Valley, and it hopes the 'no refusal' law will lead to more convictions.

THP is taking full advantage of pursuing blood samples from suspected drunk drivers, a test that some drivers, in the past, could refuse.

"Drinking and driving is a serious offense," says Lt. Christie Phillips with Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Phillips says unfortunately, it is an offense a lot of drivers take lightly. Over the July 4th holiday, THP will be enforcing the 'no refusal' law in several counties across the eastern part of the Volunteer State.

"If we feel that you have been drinking, that you've had too much to drink and drive, we're going to get a search warrant. And then when will go take you and get a blood draw," says Phillips.

The law went into effect last May. In the past, anyone could refuse a blood test, with a few exceptions.

"Only if there wasn't a prior DUI conviction, there wasn't a child 16 and under in the vehicle and there wasn't a traffic crash with injury or a fatality," says Phillips.

But the no refusal law changes all that.

"Now an officer can obtain a warrant for blood from any person that they believe is impaired by alcohol or drugs."
     
In her more than two decades with THP, Phillips knows first-hand accidents involving alcohol never end well, with 80 percent of all people killed in alcohol related crashes being in the car of the impaired driver.

"They're usually not survivable because the person that's driving is impaired and they have no control. They don't know how fast they're traveling," says Phillips.

She says the sooner a trooper can obtain proof a driver is impaired the better chance that driver will be convicted.

"This is a step in the right direction. It really is," says Phillips.

Staring July 1st, the new ignition interlock law went effect in Tennessee. The law drastically changes how drivers are monitored after a conviction. All drivers who are convicted of DUI with a .08 blood alcohol level or a combination of alcohol and drugs will become ineligible for a restricted license, unless they have an interlock installed. The device works like a breathalyzer and will not allow the engine to start if alcohol is detected.

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