Texas Uses “No Refusal Weekends” to Help Curb Drunk Driving
In order to combat alcohol-related car accidents – Texas leads the nation with 25,032 such crashes in 2010 alone – law enforcement officers have adopted a unique way to catch drunk drivers: “no refusal weekends.”
During these weekends, generally scheduled during major holidays and sporting events, those who are suspected of driving drunk will be compelled to submit to a blood test at a local hospital if they refuse to take a breathalyzer. Refusing to submit to a breathalyzer does carry consequences, including license suspension and evidence of guilt. However, about half of all Texas drivers suspected of DUI refuse to do so, according to the Texas District & County Attorneys Association.
On no refusal weekends, “[w]e actually have judges on site ready to sign a search warrant for the blood,” Ector County Sergeant Hunter Lewis said in an interview with NewsWest 9. “Blood will be drawn here on site, sealed in a tube and packaged up and sent off to the lab for testing.”
Law enforcement officials say that these weekends have gone a long way toward keeping drunk drivers off the road and they would like to see the use of these weekends become a regular part of DWI enforcement. Others, however, believe it is too expensive to administer regularly, as a phlebotomist must be present on site to collect blood. In addition, some hospitals are refusing to cooperate with police in performing the tests in order to avoid becoming entangled in a criminal case.
In addition to the new enforcement method, this past September a new DWI law went into effect that ups the punishment for some DWI offenders. The “Extreme DWI” law punishes those who are caught driving on Texas roads with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or more by classifying the offense as a Class A misdemeanor. This doubles the fine and potential jail time, meaning those convicted of “extreme” DWI could face 360 days in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
With no refusal weekends forcing suspected drunk drivers to submit to a blood test, driving under the influence with a high BAC may prove crippling to those convicted.
No refusal weekends are gaining in popularity with police enforcement. In fact, Bexar County has actually made the “no refusal” an everyday aspect of their DWI enforcement; regardless of when you refuse a breath alcohol test in Bexar County, you will be subject to a blood test. With stringent penalties including fines, possible license suspensions and jail time, those charged with a DWI should obtain an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney to protect their rights.