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Drunk Driving Arrests Expected To Go Up This Weekend

Law enforcement officials announce No Refusal initiative around Independence Day.

Harris County is regularly No. 1 in the country for fatal accidents involving intoxicated drivers.

In just the last two weeks, nine people were killed by suspected drunk drivers here.

Law enforcement officials are expecting more DWIs around the Fourth of July.

Reason enough for the region’s top leaders – including Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and police Chief Charles McClelland – to announce their “No Refusal” initiative this weekend.

“I think we’re just trying to get it through people’s heads that this is a serious problem we have,” said District Attorney Devon Anderson. “And I think the bigger show of force that we can present, maybe that message will be received by people, so they’ll understand that if you drink and drive, you’re going to jail. There’s no way to get around it. And if you kill someone, you’re going to prison.”

“No refusal” refers to the fact that suspected drunk drivers who refuse a breathalyzer test can be forced to provide a blood sample after a judge issues a search warrant for it.

These initiatives are done regularly around holidays, like Memorial Day or New Year’s Eve. Additional prosecutors and judges will be on call to facilitate the prosecution of suspected drunk drivers.

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Harris County DA Devon Anderson held a joint news conference with Houston Mayor Annise Parker and local law enforcement officials at Sam Houston Park, the site of the Freedom Over Texas Fourth of July event.

But Anderson said in Harris County, officers actually obtain such warrants every single day of the year.

“So there’s no such thing as refusal anymore here,” she said. “But with the initiative, we add more people on duty, so we can get an officer in and out quicker, then get back on the streets and get more drunk drivers off the road.”

Dane Johnson, a criminal law attorney specializing in DWI cases, said calling it “no refusal” is not entirely correct.

“You have the absolute right to refuse,” he said. “If you refuse, they have the right to then ask a detached magistrate or judge to look into getting a warrant and taking your blood. So the nomenclature is just wrong.”

Johnson said the No Refusal initiatives and other campaigns have had some success among his clientele.

“People with white-collar type jobs, they’re taking cabs more, they’re staying at home. They’re taking, you know, these new car services like Lift or Uber, or they’re just simply not driving, they have a designated driver. And, you know, so I think it has worked on that segment of society.”

Last year, there were 212 alcohol-related incidents during the Fourth of July weekend, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

This year’s No Refusal initiative runs from Thursday evening through Sunday morning.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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