That won't be an option this weekend.
“Law enforcement agencies in Smith County will be out in force during the Labor Day Holiday on the lookout for intoxicated drivers on our streets, highways, and area lakes,” says Tyler police spokesman Don Martin. “Officers won't be taking 'no' for an answer once again. The No-Refusal initiative will run Friday, August 31, thru Monday, Sept. 3.”
A state grant is helping to fund the effort.
“Upon the arrest of a suspected drunk driver, he or she will be asked if they would submit to blow into a breath-test instrument or take a blood test,” Martin explains. “If the driver refuses and says 'no' to a test, officers will obtain an immediate search warrant signed by an on-call judge to have blood drawn by a certified nurse on staff at the Smith County Jail. The blood will then be analyzed to determine whether the driver's blood-alcohol concentration is 0.08 or higher, the legal limit for driving in Texas.”
Since the beginning of 2012, the Tyler Police Department has arrested 256 drivers for DWI.
“This program has proven to be an effective tool to combat drunken drivers,” Martin says. “It is the intent of all law enforcement agencies that this effort will act as a deterrent, persuading people to avoid driving while intoxicated because they know that police officers will be conducting sobriety testing with or without driver's consent.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety will be increasing DWI patrols, as well.
DWI is a serious crime. In 2009, 32 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities nationwide were related to drinking and driving. More than 10,000 people died in that year alone in such crashes.
Even if you're lucky enough to be caught before you kill anyone, the penalties for DWI in Texas are stiff.
Even a first offense is a Class B misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $2,000, jail time of three days to six months (or probation for a year or more) and mandatory community service of between 24 and 100 hours. Throw in attorney's fees, and the cost of a first DWI conviction is often $5,000 or more.
The penalties get harsher and harsher with subsequent arrests.
A third DWI conviction is a felony, and the fine alone can be as high as $10,000. It also means prison time of two to 10 years.
So enjoy the Labor Day weekend.
But remember when to say to say “no,” and when not to.