Several media outlets have reported that DPS has stepped up its DWI enforcement in anticipation of Labor Day Weekend, traditionally one of the biggest for alcohol related arrests (read stories here, here and here). What we’re doing is putting every available trooper out on the roadways, a DPS official told a San Antonio Radio Station. Even those individuals who are usually behind a desk in the office will be on patrol.” Additionally, many counties, like Galveston County, will be running “No Refusal” programs, joining counties like Harris County where this policy is in effect at all times (read the story here).
There is no doubt that keeping our roadways safe is a very high priority. But as we have noted in the past, “No Refusal” Weekends have the effect of eroding the rights of those accused of crimes, and appear to be a part of a deliberate misinformation campaign on behalf of state agencies. As must have been obvious to the program’s founders, the name “no refusal” is often being interpreted to literally mean that a person suspected of DWI cannot legally refuse a chemical test. But this is not the case: A DWI suspect has every right to refuse a chemical test at all times, but during “No Refusal” weekends law enforcement will usually apply for a search warrant, something they are legally entitled to do anyway on any weekend.
Additionally, “No Refusal” weekends encourage police officers to illegally warn suspects that they “better just blow” or else blood will be taken anyway. Any DWI defense attorney knows that these types of warnings are illegal because they are coercive (in other words, someone is being told “blow into this machine or get poked by this sharp needle – your choice”) and not contained in the warnings police are supposed to read to DWI suspects.
Although keeping our roadways safe is a high priority, so is preserving the integrity of our justice system. But far too often, DWI suspects are treated differently. This Labor Day Weekend, stay safe, but know your rights!