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Police obtain DUI search warrants quicker with new app

While the Memorial Day holiday is weeks away, law enforcement agencies across Pennsylvania are gearing up for increased drunk driving patrols. The goal is the same as in years past: keep as many drunk drivers off the road as possible. This means making arrests and obtaining information to support criminal charges (usually through blood, urine or breath tests). However, some drivers may refuse these tests in an attempt to avoid criminal charges.

To combat this practice, some law enforcement agencies now incorporate "no refusal" strategies in order to quickly get a search warrant that will enable police to take blood samples which will contain evidence to prosecute a drunk driver. This may entail having a judge onsite (at a sobriety checkpoint, for example) to approve warrants.

However, modern technology may alleviate the need for having a signing judge nearby. A new app allows police officers to complete warrant forms directly from their onboard computer which are sent to either a waiting judge or a search warrant center.

Some agencies, such as the Phoenix Police Department, are enjoying success with the new app. A USA Today report indicates that officers can get search warrants 10 minutes after submitting a request. This alleviates the need for officers to drive to a police station, fax a warrant to the courthouse, wait for an answer, they arrange for a nurse to administer the test. Through this process, a great deal of time may pass, which (in the eyes of law enforcement) allows vital evidence to dissipate.

Even with new ways of obtaining search warrants, probable cause must still be clearly established. Moreover, these warrants can still be challenged.

Source: USA Today.com, Phoenix Police speed up DUI search warrant process, April 12, 2013

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Gregory R. Gifford
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