Friday, October 16, 2009

Blow or blood weekend

Good news indeed.

Police: ‘No refusal’ weekend effective


New Braunfels police arrested seven people during its first-ever “no refusal” crackdown on drunken driving this past weekend.

Police departments across the nation use no refusal policies to deter people from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. The policy authorizes police to take a blood sample of suspected drunken drivers who refuse sobriety tests.

Of the seven arrested, five agreed to take a Breathalyzer and failed. Only two refused the breath test and warrants to draw blood were obtained from judges on standby.

The blood tests were performed after the drivers were arrested and transported to Comal County Jail. Arrests were not based on the results of blood tests. The samples merely serve as additional evidence in a possible trial.

Usually reserved for high-risk holidays like New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, no refusal policies are designed to remind citizens of the dangers of drinking and driving, said Lt. Michael Penshorn of the New Braunfels Police Department.

“I think this definitely was successful,” he said. “It had been publicized that we were going to be doing this and I think that may have been a factor in people voluntarily submitting (to the Breathalyzer).”

Penshorn said it was likely the department would conduct additional no refusal weekends in the future and that it could become standing policy at some point.

Under state law, law enforcement can draw blood without a warrant in specific scenarios, said Penshorn.

It is legal to draw blood without a warrant if a driver has been involved in an accident that results in death or serious injury to another person or requires the person to be taken to the hospital. A warrantless blood draw also can be made if there is a passenger under 15 years of age in the vehicle or the driver has two previous convictions for driving while intoxicated.

Under this past weekend’s no refusal policy, arresting officers were required to obtain a warrant for a blood test immediately upon refusal of sobriety tests. The driver was placed under arrest for driving while intoxicated and transported to Comal County jail, where a nurse was on available to draw blood.

New Braunfels police conducted the operation in coordination with law enforcement in Guadalupe County. Because part of New Braunfels lies in Guadalupe County, NBPD Lt. John Wells and District Judge Dib Waldrip and other officials decided to extend the policy to the entire city.