OMAHA, Neb. — The Omaha city prosecutor wants an electronic system that would streamline the time it takes to obtain a judge’s signature on a warrant seeking a blood test for suspected drunken drivers.
City prosecutor Matt Kuhse said there are legislative proposals coming from his office as well as the Douglas County Attorney’s Office and the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office to alleviate a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that makes it harder to prosecute drunk driving cases.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 on June 23 that police can’t forcibly draw blood from people suspected of driving drunk without a warrant. The ruling stems from three cases in North Dakota and Minnesota in which divers challenged “implied consent” laws as a violation of the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.
“After the initial shock, everyone took a deep breath,” Matt Kuhse said. “Then we said, ‘We can work this out.'”
Kuhse said he hopes the Nebraska Legislature can create a digital warrant system to make the process more efficient. Electronic warrants would save time for law enforcement officers by allowing them to get permission without having to travel to the judge’s home to get a signature and then a hospital to get the blood test.
Kuhse said speed is critical because alcohol dissipates from the body at a rate of about .015 percent of blood alcohol content per hour.
The ruling has impacted about 20 DUI cases so far, Kuhse said.
In the meantime, Kuhse said local authorities have drafted a template for warrants to help investigators move quickly, and several Douglas County judges have volunteered to make themselves available to review warrants around the clock.
“I sat down with the county judges and explained (the problem) to them,” he said. “Judges who live in close proximity to a hospital said, ‘Hey, if time is of the essence, call me.'”
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com