Texas Senate Committee Considers DWI Breath Test Bill

March 18, 2009

Drunk driving suspects in Texas would no longer be allowed to refuse a breath or blood test under certain circumstances, under a bill being considered by the state Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Texas already allows police officers to take a breath or blood sample if a DWI suspect causes a wreck that results in death or serious injury.

SB 261, by Greenville Sen. Bob Deuell, would expand that authority in cases where the accident involved injury that required the victim to be taken to a hospital or clinic for medical care. It would also permit blood and breath tests of DWI suspects driving with a child in the car, or suspects with a prior intoxication felony conviction or two prior DWI convictions.

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley testified before the committee, saying that breath and blood test refusals make it hard to convict drunk drivers. He said more than half of all DWI suspects refuse to take a breath test, and while officers try and get a warrant for a blood test, a process that can take hours, these suspects sober up.

If SB 261 passes, he said, it would go a long way to help law enforcement officials get dangerous repeat drunk drivers off the roads, as well as create other benefits for the criminal justice system. “That effect will be much more successful prosecution, much less waste of the resources in our courtrooms and, frankly, safer highways,” said Bradley.

Austin already has such a program in place. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo testified that his officers have already conducted three “no-refusal” weekends, where a judge is on-hand to issue court orders for those DWI suspects that refuse a breathalyzer. Acevedo said his program has been very successful, netting nearly 60 misdemeanor drunk drivers. “There’s a lot of evidence to show that these programs work,” he said.

Source: Texas Senate, www.senate.state.tx.us

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