Austin Police Draw Blood in DWI Cases

The Austin Police Department (APD) is testing a program that allows certain officers to draw blood from individuals suspected of drunk driving. This duty was previously performed by emergency medical technicians and nurses working overtime. Due to staff shortages, these professionals are no longer able to offer their services for this purpose. This situation prompted the Austin PD to explore the option, inspired by a similar program in Arizona.

Lt. William White, who oversees Highway Enforcement Command for APD, clarifies that the law does not require a medical technician to perform the blood draw. It only calls for an appropriately trained technician, a role that some police officers now fill following training. As of February, four officers have completed over 50 successful blood draws.

Despite this change, blood will not be drawn at the roadside as it will be done in a sterile facility in jail. The officers received their training in Arlington, Texas, comprising 50 hours of theory and 50 practical blood draws. White suggests that if the program proves effective, it might be expanded and the training could be brought to Austin.

Testing blood for alcohol level is seen as more accurate than breathalyzer tests, providing another reason for the pilot program. Individuals suspected of driving while intoxicated can voluntarily submit to a blood test or face the procedure being warranted by an officer. Finally, White assured that the process will stay the same – only the person performing the blood draw might differ.

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