High-tech tool against drunk drivers

October 30, 2008 4:36:11 PM PDT
Friday night children of all ages will be hitting the streets dressed as ghosts and goblins, princesses and witches, going door to door in search of candy. Law officers will be out in full force, making sure everyone is having a safe Halloween.Halloween is one of those times when families stay out late, when kids are walking along sidewalks and streets. It can be dangerous, especially so when people choose to drink too much and drive. That's why the Harris County District Attorney's office, Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff's office are employing a new tool this Halloween weekend.

A first of its kind mobile DWI van for Houston and Harris County arrived just in time for this weekend. It will be on the streets starting Friday night.

"We find highly intoxicated people, on average, who are more than twice the legal limit when we do this type of a program," explained Harris County Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam.

The advantage of a mobile testing unit like this one is that officers can get suspected drunks to a breathalyzer that much faster. If the suspect refuses, a quick warrant faxed in by an on-call judge can force the involuntarily draw of blood. Soon there could be anywhere from four to six of these high-tech vans.

HPD's Paul Lassalle explained, "With over 600 square miles of city and only two intox facilities, to take four of these and spread them across the county or the city and have them all around, where officers can go directly to them, it's going to triple our ability to process DWIs."

The county paid for the vehicle with seized assets. t not only has the lab, but also a small holding cell in the back with video cameras that can provide even more evidence.

"We have to have a place when two, three, four officers show up at the same time where we can take the suspects and hold them until we can process them through the front end," Lassalle said.

Most of all, this new tool can be a deterrent down the road, making drivers think twice before drinking too much and getting behind the wheel.

Not everyone thinks these mobile vans are a great idea. A local defense attorney calls them un-American.

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