Tarrant County extends No Refusal program all year-round to discourage driving while intoxicated

The No Refusal program will remain in effect all year-round in Tarrant County to reduce driving while intoxicated cases across the county, according to a news release Wednesday.

The program originally launched during the holidays when people were most likely to drink and drive.

Drivers refusing routine breath tests after being pulled over for suspected impaired driving will be subject to court-ordered blood tests. Through the program, police officers and sheriff’s deputies have access to expedited judicial warrants and centralized blood-draw locations.

Police chiefs across the county agree it’s best for the safety of citizens to be no refusal year-round, stated Sharen Wilson, Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney, in the news release.

According to the Texas Penal Code, a first DWI offense is a class B misdemeanor, and violators can face a jail term of up to 180 days, a fine of up to $2,000 or both.

In 2019, 6,001 misdemeanor and felony DWI cases were filed in Tarrant County courts, according to the news release.

In Arlington, there has been longtime success making DWI arrests during No Refusal weekends. The Labor Day holiday saw Arlington Police Department officers making 18 DWI arrests, media relations coordinator Tim Ciesco said in an email.

The Arlington Police Department has a full-time DWI unit of eight officers and one sergeant focused on locating and removing impaired drivers off roadways.

The department benefits from the No Refusal program as it provides funding that allows judges to be readily available to expedite the warrant process and medical personnel available at centralized blood-draw locations to get blood samples from suspected DWI drivers, Ciesco said.

During No Refusal periods, officers receive blood samples more accurately reflecting a driver’s blood alcohol content at time of arrest, which is important to the prosecution. Officers also get back on the streets faster to search for impaired drivers, Ciesco said.

Originally, officers had to wait longer for judges to sign off on a warrant in order to collect a blood sample from suspected DWI drivers that refused to give one. Officers also had to wait longer at hospitals before a nurse could perform the blood draw, Ciesco said.

No Refusal programs enhance the criminal justice response to impaired driving and are an important component to protect the campus community, said UTA Police Capt. Mike McCord in an email.

UTA Police will continue adhering to established best practices, including utilizing No Refusal processes in an effort to enhance campus safety, McCord said.

Residents and visitors are strongly encouraged to plan ahead and arrange a safe ride home when they will be consuming alcohol, Ciesco said.

“We hope this sends a strong message to the public that drinking and driving in Arlington, and anywhere in Tarrant County for that matter, will not be tolerated,” he said.

@david___a23

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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