New law has clear benefits

Published 10:43 am Thursday, October 2, 2008

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes a new Ohio law that gives police the authority to force a blood or urine test on suspected drunken drivers who have had at least two DUI convictions.

The law, which went into effect Tuesday, is unconstitutional from the ACLU’s point of view because police now do not have to have a warrant to order those suspected criminals to be subjected to the test.

State Sen. Timothy Grendell, a Chesterland Republican who sponsored the bill, says it takes out a loophole for those drivers who would test above the legal limit if not for the delays associated with obtaining a warrant.

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“This particular provision is important because it’s going to be targeting those repeat drunken drivers who have become educated and think they can scam the system by refusing to be tested,” Grendell said.

Although there should be caution when anyone’s rights are forfeited, this legislation makes sense in terms of giving police the necessary latitude to protect the public from dangerous drivers.

The ACLU’s point is well taken that the law gives police broad authority by not forcing officers to obtain a warrant under those circumstances. And the concern for abuse of that power by officers is one that should not be dismissed.

However, it is not unreasonable to give officers the ability to make that judgment call when it comes to drivers who have a history of driving under the influence.

It should also be noted that the legislature could do more in this area. In particular, when repeat drunken drivers are convicted, the penalties should be severe enough to protect the public from their unsafe behavior.

Stories about multiple DUI offenders causing death or serious injury to others are far too frequent.

Civil liberties are precious and need to be valued, but so are the lives of the innocent who travel Ohio’s roadways.