Authorities have initiated several recent no-refusal, mandatory blood draw programs in an effort to improve Texas' standing as the state with the highest number of annual alcohol-related deaths. These programs allow police the resources to collect court-ordered blood tests from drivers suspected of driving under the influence.
While Texas drivers give implied consent to submit to breath testing when they receive their driver's licenses, they may revoke that consent when arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. And while police may obtain a warrant to draw blood from a suspected drunk driver, many departments lack the resources and the staff to collect the evidence.
Although refusal to submit to a breath test carries a penalty – drivers who fail to submit to breath testing face a license suspension of 180 days, as compared to a 90 day suspension if they submit to a test and fail – it may potentially help the accused to avoid conviction.
Without chemical proof that an accused driver had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or greater, prosecutors must rely on police testimony to secure a conviction. Because this testimony focuses on a variety of subjective factors – for example, whether the driver's eyes were bloodshot, whether the driver slurred his or her speech or whether the driver smelled like alcohol – it is easily disputed in court.
This is not to say that breathalyzer results always lead to conviction, however. They are, in fact, far less reliable than blood test results, which is one of the main reasons that police, prosecutors and some safety advocates would like to see more mandatory blood draw programs.
Brown County, Texas tried the no refusal program last holiday season, when drunk driving is most prevalent and the roads dangerous. The program delivered promising results, demonstrating an 83 percent decrease in alcohol and drug related accidents compared to 2008.
If this program and its results continue to impress Texas officials around the state, the program could spread throughout Texas.
Passing such legislation, however, will not be easy. Opponents argue mandatory blood tests violate rights of privacy and freedom from unreasonable search. Permanent, statewide application of mandatory blood tests is also a concern. Texas programs thus far have lasted only weekends or few months at a time. The cost and man-power of a no refusal program could be unrealistic, even impossible.
Time will tell if the no refusal program will become official statewide and more than a seasonal, county specific experiment. The logistics and legal implications are still being debated, but if no refusal does take wide effect, it means big changes for Texans.
If you are facing DUI charges, were in an alcohol-related accident or simply have questions about your state drinking laws, consult an experienced attorney near you. A lawyer can explain the laws and help you explore your legal options.