Police to Use “No Refusal” on a Daily Basis

 
 

Law enforcement agencies across Texas have come to rely on "no refusal" as part of their DWI enforcement strategies on major holidays since Memorial Day weekend in 2008. "No refusal" refers to coordinated steps between police, prosecutors, nurses and local judges to preventing suspected drunk drivers from refusing chemical tests that would find them legally drunk at sobriety checkpoints.

Texas law allows drivers arrested for DWI to choose a blood test (instead of a breath test) at their own expense. The process of obtaining a blood sample takes a while between the initial arrest and the eventual test. Usually a few hours elapses before the suspect's blood is actually tested. By this time, a drivers' BAC can be under the legal limit (or at least lower than when they were first arrested). Arrestees can avoid DWI charges, and harsher potential penalties for high BAC charges.

Under the "no refusal" strategy, judges are available on the scene to issue search warrants so that on-site nurses can immediately take blood samples and measure a driver's BAC. This way, suspected drivers would not be able to prevent police from obtaining DUI evidence.

In Bexar County, the San Antonio Police Department and the Bexar County Sheriff's Department will use "no refusal" strategies on a daily basis, thanks to a $1.4 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation. This makes the San Antonio metro area the largest urban area in Texas to have an absolute "no-refusal" policy. However, it is likely to be incorporated in other metro areas in Texas.

Law enforcement and victim advocacy groups praise "no refusal" because it takes dangerous drivers off the road and reduces the risk for fatal accidents. Since Texas leads the nation in drunk driving fatalities, it is an important public safety consideration. However, it raises the specter of unconstitutional searches based on little (or inaccurate) information, and potentially strips suspected drunk drivers of viable defenses.

If you have been charged with drunk driving based on a "no refusal" warrant, an experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you.