New law requires warrant for DUI blood test

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Police can't just take your blood if you get pulled over, suspected of driving high on marijuana.

A new law requires a warrant. Troopers say the extra time spent getting warrants means less time keeping you safe on the road.

When it comes to pot and alcohol, Bill Isbelle is firm in his opinion.

"I think it should be used as a recreational item in the home or on your property. But where else as far as I'm concerned and certainly not on the road," he says.

But a new law that's aimed at giving prosecutors more air-tight DUI cases, could lead to more dangers on the road.

Until recently, police followed the idea of implied consent.
That's the fine print at the Department of Licensing when you get a Driver's License. You agree to consent to sobriety tests if an officer requests it. But now, if an officer suspects a driver is high on marijuana, a judge needs to agree to a warrant to take a blood sample. Adding more steps and more time to traffic stops.

"We have to write the warrant, we have to contact the judge, if the warrant is granted, we have to take the person to a medical facility, have the blood drawn, the than transport them back to the jail where they're booked, then we have to enter the blood into our evidence system. So yes, it does take time," says WSP Sgt. David Kaiser.

Under the new requirements, the average time for a DUI traffic stop goes up substantially. What could have taken a little a half an hour could take up to several hours. Meaning officers are pulled off their patrols.

"We deal with being short-handed every day and it's not just here, it's across the state. But certainly, when the guys and gals are taking more time on traffic stops, it's less time they can be out there. They're having to seal with that one person for more time," Sgt. Kaiser added.

Troopers still don't need a warrant for a breathalyzer to determine blood alcohol content. Bill thinks both alcohol and pot should be treated the same.

"We spend a lot of money to pay our officers to keep us safe. And I think that any laws that apply to alcohol should also apply to marijuana or any other drug," he says.

It's all part of the changing landscape now that marijuana is legal for adults.

Law enforcement is experimenting with new, faster ways to contact judges for search warrants. They've just recently moved away from using fax machines.

WSP says they have dealt with more cases of marijuana DUI since July.