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From Breathalyzer to Blood Test: Sobriety Testing in Texas Gets Serious

Many have heard of the so-called loophole in DWI law and prosecution involving the refusal to take a breathalyzer test. In Texas, you do have the right to refuse to take a breathalyzer if you are stopped on suspicion of drunk driving. Refusal usually comes with a 180 day driver’s license suspension; however, the prosecution cannot use your refusal to take a breathalyzer test as evidence against you in court. This means the state has no chemical proof of drunk driving to make its case. Rather, it must rely on officer and witness testimony.

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors in Texas and several other states are working to fight this loophole by making it easier and faster to obtain blood tests from DWI suspects. In Houston, the “no refusal” policy has been in effect for several years.

In what some consider an affront to Texans’ civil rights, law enforcement officers can require drunk driving suspects who refuse a breathalyzer test to submit to a blood test instead. In the past, however, administrative and medical hurdles often made it difficult for police officers to obtain a blood sample before the dissipation of blood alcohol concentration. The no refusal policy enables police officers to conduct blood tests quickly because magistrate judges are available to issue warrants, nurses are on-staff to draw blood, and physical restraints are allowed when necessary.

The Wall Street Journal published an article describing Texas’ no refusal policy in December, noting that law enforcement officers and prosecutors prefer basing DWI cases on blood tests because “blood evidence is a powerful tool in front of juries.” It is easy to understand that numerous and quick convictions boost the state’s reputation and revenue.

Based on the increasingly popular no refusal policy, the Texas criminal justice system is tougher than ever on people suspected of DWI. Even with the strong stance against drunk driving, however, law enforcement officers must still follow detailed procedures during traffic stops, sobriety tests, and when making an arrest. An experienced criminal defense attorney can identify the ways to avoid a conviction or mitigate charges.

Experienced Houston DWI Defense Lawyers

If you face drunk driving charges in Texas, the penalties associated with a conviction are severe, including jail time, large fines, and driver’s license suspension, especially if you have prior convictions on your record. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at McLemore, Reddell, Ardoin & Story, P.L.L.C. in Houston can help you fight the charges brought against you, minimizing the consequences of a DWI arrest on your life now and in the future. Contact us for a free consultation.