Harris County imposing no-refusal policy year round

July 17, 2013 8:21:16 PM PDT
No refusal is something you hear about during various holidays and three-day weekends. Well now, the policy to catch drunk drivers is in effect year round in Harris County. But the newly expanded program has raised some concerns even from those on the same side.

For almost 10 years, no-refusal weekends have been introduced at news conferences, fronted by victims or law enforcement ahead of a holiday.

Now even a random Wednesday night is a no-refusal night.

According to the Harris County District Attorney's Office, they are expanding their no-refusal program to year round. That means if a suspected drunk driver refuses a Breathalyzer test, the officer will get a search warrant from a judge for a blood draw.

The head of the vehicular crimes section tells Eyewitness News, "We don't want people dying on the roads at the hands of drunk drivers. We're hoping this will prevent that."

He adds with blood evidence, conviction rates are much higher: 87 percent compared to 49 percent without blood.

But criminal defense attorney Troy McKinney says cost is an issue.

"It's a colossal expense for the government," McKinney said.

And while the Houston Police Officer's Union supports the state's desire for more convictions, President Ray Hunt is concerned about the manpower to make the process happen.

"It's going to take him or her out of their beats," Hunt said. "It could add four to six hours on a two- or three-hour DWI now, which means that a regular patrol officer could take an entire shift on a DWI."

The DA's office doesn't dispute either of those concerns but believes the end result is fewer people driving drunk. Officials with the DA's office also say they've overhauled their in-house training on the subject and every prosecutor has completed it.

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