Electronic Signatures Helping in Fight Against Drunk Driving

Mary Ellen Power, November 10, 2014

Prosecuting an individual for a DWI has long been a complex and difficult process. If a person refused to comply with a breath test, the individual could be detained until a warrant could be received to allow officers to perform the test without the permission of the individual. Dealing with this paperwork could take so long that police would end up dealing with accused individuals with a lower blood-alcohol level by the time they were able to complete an assessment. Electronic signatures can accelerate this process, and this advance is already underway in Greene County, Missouri.

E-signatures enabling better DWI enforcement

According to a recent report from local broadcast news company KY3, police officers in Greene County are now able to enact a no refusal policy for individuals they suspect of driving under the influence and ask to take a breath test. This is being enacted at this stage through existing checkpoints in the county, and represents a key step forward for the law enforcement organization. Greene County chief assistant prosecuting attorney Todd Myers told the news source that law enforcement professionals are, essentially, not going to have any problem with somebody refusing to take a breath test. The reason is simple, they can't refuse for long. 

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Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams told KY3 that the process for individuals refusing to take a breath test is the same - they will be put in jail and booked, then the prosecuting attorney will be contacted. The difference is that law enforcement officials will be able to take a blood test within approximately an hour, a process that is accelerated because of technological advanced like e-signature solutions.

"Now, with electronic signatures now being approved, with e-mail search warrants now being allowed, we were recently able to do one in roughly an hour," Myers told the news source.

Defense attorney Larry Catt told the news source that the new testing methodology also benefits those wrongfully accused of driving under the influence.

""Blood tests are more accurate than Breathalyzers," Catt told KY3. "So, if someone isn't under the influence and isn't intoxicated, that blood test is going to exonerate them."

Catt added that the consequences of refusing a breath test combined with the quick warrant for a blood test creates a situation in which fewer people will likely refuse breath tests in the first place, make it much easier to enforce an effective no refusal policy.

Law enforcement among sectors that stand to gain from e-signatures

All of these advances are possible because electronic signature software provides a secure method to transmit, sign and authenticate key documents through electronic means. This results in a situation in which police offers can communicate with prosecutors, who can then go to a judge and eventually back to prosecutors and police in a matter of minutes. A process that would have involved multiple physical meetings and costly travel to make those meetings possible - gas expenses can rise when prosecutors are driving all over the county or state to visit judges and deliver warrants to police stations - is now consolidated into an hour-long email exchange.

Implementing e-signatures is an excellent way for any organization to streamline operations. The technology is particularly valuable when companies frequently need to interact with external stakeholders or over cross-departmental boundaries. This is incredibly common in law enforcement as documents need to move seamlessly between police, legal and governmental bodies, and even sometimes be made available to the public, as efficiently as possible. Electronic records solutions are leading to huge gains in these areas, and e-signatures are a catalyst for this growth.