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Impaired drivers be warned: No getting out of blood alcohol test

PHOENIX — Twenty years ago, Arizona kicked off a national think tank to stop impaired driving.

This week, those drug recognition experts are back in Arizona, sharing notes on the latest to combat impaired driving.

Arizona has a reputation for coming down hard on drivers who get behind the wheel drunk or on drugs. So much so that at the 20th Annual International Association of Chief of Police Training Conference on Drugs, Alcohol and Impaired Driving, a record number of officers showed up.

“We have more than 850 attendees here at the Biltmore this week,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the governor’s Highway Safety Division. “That’s a record number of attendees since we launched the program from Phoenix 20 years ago.”

One of the hot topics being discussed this week involves speeding up the blood alcohol testing process. Phoenix Police Sgt. Doug Opferbeck said that in Maricopa County, one of the road blocks stopping officers from giving blood alcohol tests on-scene was the search warrant process if someone refuses to take it. But all that just changed, thanks to the electronic search warrant.

“It allows the officer to author a search warrant on their computer and send it electronically to a judge who is waiting for them,” he explained. “The judge reviews it and sends it back electronically.”

The electronic warrant capability will now turn an eight- to 10-hour waiting period into an instant process.

“We’re getting warrants back in four to eight minutes,” said Opferbeck.

And if that blood alcohol test comes back positive, a driver’s chances for getting out of a DUI in Arizona are now about .08 percent.