More debate brews over 'no refusal weekend'

September 4, 2008 4:12:41 PM PDT
Ft. Bend County is quickly becoming the center of debate over the legality of "no refusal weekends." That's when officers have judges on call to force blood tests on suspected drunk drivers. As we first reported last week, some judges in Ft. Bend County do not like the idea and over this past Labor Day weekend, it was someone other than a Ft. Bend judge authorizing those warrants.

When Justin Givens and Saturnino Cortez were each pulled over early Sunday morning, each was suspected of driving while intoxicated. Court documents indicate they refused breathalyzer or blood tests, so prosecutors decided they wanted to sit them down and legally force them to give blood, a practice some counties are implementing on holiday weekends.

Yet when prosecutors tried to track down a judge to force a blood draw of Givens and Cortez...

"We found that there was no judge available to review an evidentiary search warrant," said Ft. Bend County District Attorney John Healey.

Prosecutors say they called all of the ten judges they thought would be available. None answered.

Healey says he'd never suggest a judge purposely avoided his duties.

"Two judges indicated that they did not want to participate at all with this particular program or review any evidentiary search warrant as to the taking of blood," said Healey.

Judge Robert Kern says he wasn't available Sunday morning, though he was the next day. He says he would have carefully considered the warrant application if he'd been available, even though he worries about how legal it is to force someone to give blood.

"It's intrusive because you're sticking a needle in somebody's arm that has said no," said Judge Kern.

Since they couldn't find a Fort Bend judge, prosecutors went to Harris County Court-at-Law Judge William Harmon and got him to sign the papers.

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