DWI suspects must go to hospital

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By David Giuliani

City and state police are questioning a policy at the San Miguel County jail that requires medical clearances for all DWI offenders.

The jail warden counters that his facility is simply following a national standard.

The police agencies said it would take longer for officers to process the offenders, keeping them off the streets to catch still more. The medical clearances require that officers take offenders to the hospital.

“Normally, it takes two to three hours (to process a DWI offender), depending on how the person is behaving. With the medical clearances, you’re looking at an officer taking four to six hours. A rookie will take the entire shift,” state police Lt. Craig Martin said.

Martin said his understanding is that the jail enacted the policy only a few weeks ago, but the jail’s warden, Patrick Snedeker, said it’s been the rule for a long time.

“We have to protect the person who is being brought to the detention center, and we have to protect law enforcement. Those are our primary goals,” Snedeker said.

Snedeker said his jail was basing its policy on a national standard and that it is simply addressing liability concerns.

He said he didn’t want to get into a public disagreement with Martin and others.

Martin said he didn’t know of other jails that have such policies.

“If this policy has been in existence for some time, we weren’t told about it. This means that officers will be off the roads,” he said.

Martin said he understood if the jail required a medical clearance for an offender who was well over the legal limit of .08 blood-alcohol content. But he said it doesn’t make sense to have such a rule for those just over that limit.

Las Vegas Police Chief Gary Gold agreed.

“If they’re starting to require medical clearance for everyone over .08, that will take officers off the streets,” the chief said. “We’re starting to compromise the safety of the citizens of Las Vegas. I would like to see that national standard.”

He said the jail and police agencies may need to have an agreement about which level would require medical clearance.

“Who’s going to pay for the medical clearance? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Gold said.