ST. CHARLES, Ill. (STMW) – Three people were charged in a New Year’s Day drunken driving “no-refusal” operation, the first since new Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon took office, the county prosecutor’s office reported this week.
The no-refusal stops were conducted between 11 p.m. Dec. 31 New Year’s Eve and 4 a.m. New Year’s Day in Batavia, Elgin, Geneva, Montgomery and St. Charles.
Designed to target repeat drunken drivers, the no-refusal operation makes search warrants and blood draws readily available to police officers who stop possibly impaired drivers. If drivers refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test, police officers obtain a search warrant to draw blood.
No-refusal details were started in Kane County by McMahon’s predecessor, John Barsanti. Barsanti was named a judge in December, so no-refusal weekends were among the programs McMahon said he would evaluate.
The most controversial aspect of the no-refusal effort has been the idea of forced blood draws, where a person is strapped down while a phlebotomist sticks a needle in his or her arm. While Barsanti felt it was legally defensible, no blood was forcibly drawn. If the driver refused all the way through, he or she could be charged with obstructing justice.
McMahon has not ruled out forced blood draws. While the safety of officers and the suspect would be the first priority, “I am not willing to say we will not use force if that becomes necessary,” McMahon said this week
In the meantime, McMahon said he was pleased with the first no-refusal in his tenure. Three arrests were fewer than the usual two-day totals, but McMahon feels the message is getting out.
“As public awareness increases, I think people are changing their behavior,” he said. “On New Year’s Eve, there were a lot of taxicabs on the street.”
The three people charged with drunken driving were Daniel Ellingsworth, 32, of Batavia; Kali Freeman, 35, of Rockford; and Badamgarav Balamjav, 41, of Arlington, Va.
Of those three, police only had to get a search warrant for one, although prosecutors did not indicate who.
McMahon said he does not have the next no-refusal planned, but he promised more.
“This will not be the last no-refusal operation,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to change behavior.”
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