On Forced Specimens in DWI Cases

I’ve written before on forced blood draws, and indeed, in Austin, some DWI suspects are being forced to give blood specimens. After an initial refusal to take a breath or blood test, the officer submits a warrant to have the defendant’s blood forcibly drawn. 

This is one of the main reasons that the Travis County Jail went to 24 hour magistration. Since most DWI arrests are after midnight – go figure – such a policy didn’t make any sense until they made sure they had a judge to rubber stamp the warrants.

But this news article takes it to a new level:

A lawsuit over the forced catheterization of a man who was arrested for investigation of drunken driving has been settled for $15,000.

The settlement reached Friday with Matthew Clifford Arthur, 37, over his treatment following an arrest in November 2005 did not include any admission of wrongdoing, Assistant Attorney General Gary E. Andrews said Monday. While the settlement covers Cowlitz County and county officials, the state will pay the full cost, he added.

"This turned out to be a better way to go than to spend more money litigating it," Andrews said.

Arthur filed suit last month, accusing two Cowlitz County sheriff's deputies and a state corrections officer of forcing him to undergo catheterization and a blood draw when he refused to provide urine and blood samples at St. John's Medical Center in Longview following a traffic stop.

Arthur was required to undergo screening for intoxicants upon request under a probation agreement at the time, but his lawyer, Kevin G. Blondin, said the procedure was painful, invasive and unnecessary.

"He was held down kicking and screaming while they shoved a catheter into his penis," Blondin said.

Instead, Arthur should have been taken to jail when he refused to give the fluid samples, the lawyer said.

Forced catheterization. A couple of comments.

First, state entities do not, at least typically, settle lawsuits “just to make them go away” or because it will be cheaper. I don’t have any inside facts here, but I think it’s reasonable to guess that ‘they’ decided that a jury wouldn’t like this, and that they stood to lose a lot more if they went to trial. That’s how civil settlements work.

Second, this guy was on probation. So he deserved it right? Even consuming alcohol, whether you are operating a vehicle or not, is a probation violation – at least in Texas. But many times, at least if it’s a DWI probation in Austin, the judge will make “submit to the taking of a breath or blood specimen upon request of police or probation officer” a condition. So if it’s necessary to prove a probation violation, his initial refusal will do the trick.

Third… is this what we’ve come to? Forced catheterization? It barely needs commenting on. If you’re not immediately, viscerally opposed to this, I can’t imagine how my words could change your mind.

I’m not a big fan of slippery slope arguments, but before you start supporting forced blood draws in Texas DWI cases, you really might want to think where this whole thing is going.

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Austin DWI Lawyer - April 23, 2008 1:00 AM
“I Was There” left a comment to my post about involuntary catheterizations in DWI cases. The Attorney General’s Office for Washington State had settled a civil lawsuit - without an admission of wrongdoing – for, well, there&rsqu...
Austin DWI Lawyer - June 30, 2008 9:42 PM
KXAN ran a story tonight about Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo’s plan to do away with breath test refusals in Austin DWI cases:"My intent in the future is to make it so there is no such thing as a...
Comments (5)Subscribe to Comments on this Entry Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Stephen Gustitis - March 8, 2008 6:09 AM

Jamie:
Why not force the suspect to also supply a stool and semen sample while they're at it. This stuff is just crazy and morally reprehensible.

sg

I was there - March 9, 2008 6:53 PM

The article covers little of the story. Arthur was on the WA equivalent of felony parole. He committed several crimes that night (hit and run, 2 cts felony malicious mischief, and was tried and acquitted of felony harassment) in addition to DUI and was believed to have left the home of his domestic violence victim (for whon ther was a no contact condition) immediately before his crime spree. His bizarre and violent behavior (and prior drug use) led his parole officer and hospital staff to believe Arthur was intoxicated on something other than alcohol. Hospital staff needed to know to clear him before he could be booked into the jail. The parole officer needed to establish whether Arthur posed an increased threat to his DV victim or society. (In WA, the parole officers have broad repsonsibilities levied by a state Supreme Court ruling to assess risks and warn and protect "reasonably foreseeable" vcitims.)
As such, the blood and urine draw were sought,despite Arthur's initial refusal. Dspite his claims, neither was taken by force. In fact, he was cooperative with the blood draw and does not even remember it!
The blood and alcohol tests were not intended for, nor used in, his criminal trial.

Mark Johnson - September 5, 2008 11:36 AM

I am absolutely sure, that on a long enough timeline, law reinforcement is going to get us any kind of analysis any time, anywhere. I'm gonna turn to a San Diego DUI lawyer in a case like that. What are you guys going to do?

humberto Bustamante - November 17, 2008 9:24 PM

How in the world can this williamson County judge rule for the defense of a drunk suspect(who happens to be a state reprsentative)who refuses to take any breath or blood test, but fails a field test, and can still consider others guilty until proven innocent? Where is the equal justice? How can this "judge" remain unbiased in any case? How and why are we supposed to allow him to continue on the bech and make a mockery of social justice?

- - January 15, 2013 8:15 AM

I was catheterized by force in Travis county by police under suspicion of drugs or alcohol, it was never made clear to me. I wasn't driving, and I wasn't asked to submit to a breathalyzer, I was brought to St Davids hospital and had blood drawn, after they drew blood the cops and a few male nurses came in the room and held me down and unbuckled and pulled down my pants to my ankles, wiped the tip of my penis with red iodine and shoved a fairly large clear plastic tube into my bladder. I wasn't given a choice to pee in a cup. when they were done with the tube they immediately put me in four point restraints and left me there until the lab work came back. I was released from the restraints long enough to get a gloved handshake from the two officers before they left, I come to find out the results were negative for drugs and alcohol. I thought I was free at that point, but after the cops left the male nurses returned and replaced the restraints and left me that way. I spent two days in restraints, without food or water. After the first few hours I was starting to get very upset and shout for help to anyone that came near the door and the male nurse responded by injecting me with a tranquilizer. I wasn't spoken to by any staff other than snide remarks by this particular nurse and never once saw a doctor. By the end of the second day, I was released from the restraints and used the phone to call my parents to help me and was only released after they notified the hospital that I was even there. This ordeal has severely damaged my ability to enjoy life. I have really never told anyone what happened because they all act like it was something I brought on myself. It's like having a screw twisting in my guts and head. No charges were filed and I never heard from the cops again and the $7,000 dollar bill I received from the hospital a month later had nothing about the blood work or urinalysis on it.

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