Last year, 801 people died in alcohol related traffic fatalities in the state of Texas. This number has climbed over the past several years. In 2009, Texas had the most alcohol related fatalities of any state in the country. These numbers have pushed lawmakers to take more aggressive steps in getting drunk drivers off the road, including mandatory blood draws.
They are called no-refusal policies because regardless of what you want, you will submit to a blood test when suspected of DUI in cities and counties taking part. No longer can suspected drunk drivers refuse a breath test in the hopes of avoiding giving the state evidence of their impairment.
Lawmakers and prosecutors saw it as a problem that suspects could refuse a breath test when suspected of drunk driving. Typically, when this occurred, the prosecution would be left presenting police reports and other second-hand sort of evidence at trial, evidence that is more easily beaten by defendants.
Now, however, if you refuse the breath test, the police can get a warrant and forcefully take your blood. They are even authorized to strap you down while a medical professional sticks the needle in your arm.
With blood evidence, prosecutors win convictions in about 90% of cases, or more. Most often, defendants confronted with blood evidence opt for a plea agreements, pleading guilty in order to avoid trial and a potentially harsher sentence. According to the Wall Street Journal, there’s a saying within the legal community about this, “If it bleeds, it pleads.”
No refusal policies aren’t in place everywhere in the state, at all times. Instead, they are often used as a tough alternative on weekends or holidays. More than likely there will be many such blood-draws over the coming weeks. Officers have to be in touch with prosecutors, who in turn can provide the proper motion to judges on call who can sign an order for the evidence to be collected.
The problem with this approach, according to opponents, is that it subjects people to a very invasive “search and seizure” of evidence, perhaps even unreasonable, something that we are protected against by the U.S. Constitution. Like many drunk driving policies, this seems to assume the suspect is guilty long before they are given the benefit of due process. But, the Texas courts disagree, having repeatedly upheld the no refusal practices.
This summer, 500 Texas law enforcement agencies took part in a no-refusal weekend over the 4th of Jult. They made about 1,500 DWI arrests. So far, Bexar County (including San Antonio) is the only locality that has implemented the practice year-round.
It’s hard to beat a DWI charge when the prosecution has blood evidence, but it is not impossible. And even when the outcome looks bleak, your attorney may be able to negotiate a favorable plea agreement that can avoid the harshest penalties, and let you get on with your life.
If you are charged with DWI, regardless of the evidence, contact us for a free criminal consultation and find out how we can help.