Dallas and Tarrant Counties have just announced plans to increase enforcement of Texas drunk driving laws during the upcoming holiday season. As part of that initiative, law enforcement agencies have adopted a no refusal policy.
I applaud Texas’s initiative in deterring the drunk driving that is the appallingly common aftermath of many holiday celebrations. By getting drunk drivers off the road, law enforcement will spare families the agony of losing a loved one on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I recently concluded the cases of these two fine people who were hit by a drunk driver and would not wish their ordeal on any one.
What Does No Refusal Mean?
In Texas, a driver is presumed impaired when she or he registers a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. The Breathalyzer tests the concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood. Typically, a police officer asks a driver who is stopped on suspicion of drunk driving to give a breath sample in the Breathalyzer machine. However, a drunk driver can often deter law enforcement from gathering essential evidence in the DUI investigation by refusing to submit to the Breathalyzer test. In most cases, that is the end of the story. The refusal results in automatic driver’s license suspension, but can improve the defendant’s chances of acquittal in the criminal case.
According to an article in today’s Dallas Morning News, drivers in Dallas and Tarrant County will again not have the option to refuse this holiday season. Instead, a police officer will seek a search warrant to compel a suspected drunk driver to submit breath or blood samples for testing. A judge may hold a driver who still refuses to comply in contempt of court, in addition to the DUI charges. Prosecutors, judges, nurses and lab technicians have been assigned to work around the clock to effectively implement the no refusal policy and increase enforcement of DUI laws.
For the first time, Tarrant County added the Halloween weekend to its list of No Refusal periods, and over 50 people were arrested as a result. I hope that one day Texas will implement a year-round no refusal program to discourage intoxicated driving.
Woman Paralyzed in DUI Accident Shares Her Story
In a poignant moment, Tonya Winchester addressed the attendees at the news conference announcing the counties’ plans to ramp up holiday DUI law enforcement. Ms. Winchester was celebrating her high school graduation when she handed her keys to a friend because she was too drunk to drive. Tragically, her friend was too drunk as well, but she drove anyway. Her friend ran a red light and drove into the path of an 18-wheeler. Ms. Winchester was paralyzed from the chest down in the DUI accident. This inspirational woman calls herself an offender as well as a victim and she recognizes that her actions have had serious consequences on her loved ones who care for her everyday.
The article announcing the crackdown talked about the horrendous affluenza” case, in which I represented the family of a teen who was injured during a horrific DWI accident. My 15 year-old client was a friend of Ethan Couch and was a passenger in his car when Mr. Couch ran drove with a BAC of .24 percent and killed four people. Couch’s apparent affluenza defense made national headlines. But the real story here is that a young promising teen suffered severe brain damage that requires constant lifelong care. Like Ms. Winchester, he is fortunate to have a loving family willing to devote their lives to providing the level of care he needs, but his crash never should have happened.
Hold the Drunk Driver Accountable
If you were injured in a DWI or DUI crash, Bill Berenson Injury Law can help you hold the drunk driver accountable. Call our office at 817-885-8000 or toll-free at 1-888-801-8585 to schedule a free case evaluation.