The Rhode Island Senate has unanimously passed a bill to hold drunk drivers accountable for injuruies and deaths they cause.
Under the legislation, DNA laced blood, fluids and body tissue could be taken from suspects who refuse a breathalyzer test in cases where police believe reckless or drunk driving led to death or serious injury.
The DNA/DUI legislation, sponsored by Sen. Joseph M. Polisena (D-Dist. 25) of Johnston, closes the so-called drunk driving loophole that led the Rhode Island Supreme Court several years ago to throw out the case of a Warwick woman after prosecutors used blood evidence taken without her consent, though police had obtained a court order to do so.
The bill, said Senator Polisena, addresses that issue by putting drunk drivers or individuals driving to endanger who cause death or serious bodily injury in the same position under the law as other criminal defendants with respect to seizure of evidence. It allows for the collection of that evidence, after a warrant is issued, in the form of blood, breath or urine samples.
It also allows a search warrant to be issued for bodily tissue fluids or substances, and makes the results admissible as evidence. The bill also gives health care workers immunity from any civil or criminal penalties arising from obtaining the sample.
“As a former firefighter and as a registered nurse who has worked in the emergency room, I have seen the anguish, frustration and pain that a reckless or drunk driver can cause, for victims and their families. I’ve grieved and cried with many of them,” said Senator Polisena.
“It’s time to close this loophole.”
The bill, (2004 – S2950), is co-sponsored by Sen. Michael J. Damiani (D-Dist. 18) of East Providence; Sen. Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38) of Westerly and Charlestown; Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37) of South Kingstown and New Shoreham, and Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33) of Coventry, East Greenwich, Warwick and West Warwick.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
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