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Driving While Intoxicated and No Refusal Weekends

With the 4th of July upon us, what better topic to delve into than the infamous “no refusal weekend” that many counties across Texas implement and advertise during holidays. Picture this scenario for a moment. You and your friends are out on the lake, and you’ve taken it upon yourself to celebrate our nation’s independence by using a noodle pool float as a beer bong to chug down countless bud lights over the course of the day. And, why shouldn’t you? Your best buddy Phil has graciously volunteered to be you and your other friends’ designated driver for the day. However, after a day of very successful partying, your buddy Phil seems to have gotten a little caught up in the holiday spirit, and he’s spent the past hour crumpled up on the dock and throwing up. Plan B is set into motion and, before you know it, you’re Phil’s back up. After all, your buzz is wearing off, and you don’t want to let your friends down. So, you all pile into the van and, just as you’re merging onto the highway, you see that old familiar red, white, and blue in your rear-view mirror. Only this time, they aren’t representing our nation’s independence and freedom. Rather, they are directly threatening yours. Even worse, you’ve heard that it’s a no refusal weekend. As the officer approaches your door, you wonder, “what should I do?”

Implied Consent Law in Collin County, Texas

In order to understand how Texas’s no refusal weekends work, it’s necessary to familiarize yourself with a little bit of background information first. Under the Texas Transportation Code, anyone who is arrested for driving while intoxicated in Texas “is deemed to have consented…to submit to the taking of one or more specimens of the person’s breath or blood for analysis to determine the alcohol concentration or the presence in the person’s body of a controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance.” This implied consent is given when a person completes a driver’s license application and submits it to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

However, even with the implied consent law, a person who is arrested for driving while intoxicated still has the right to refuse to submit to a breath or blood test. With a few very narrow exceptions, Section 724.013 of the Texas Transportation Code specifically states that “a specimen may not be taken if a person refuses to submit to the taking of a specimen designated by a peace officer.” Refusing a breath or blood test simply violates the implied consent law. The consequences of doing so simply means that the arresting officer will confiscate your driver’s license, and your driving privileges will be suspended for 180 days. Please note, however, that you may request a hearing on the suspension in order to challenge it.

Police Use Search Warrants to Implement No Refusal Weekends

The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable government searches and seizures of their persons, houses, papers, and effects. With limited exceptions, a search is presumed to be unreasonable if no warrant has been issued and/or no consent to search has been given. In order to obtain a valid search warrant, law enforcement officers must show that there is probable cause to believe that a search is justified. Officers must support this showing with sworn statements, or affidavits, and must describe in particularity the place they will search and the item or items they will seize. Additionally, only a magistrate or judge may issue a search warrant, and they must consider the totality of the circumstances when deciding whether or not to issue the search warrant.

Generally speaking, law enforcement officers may obtain a driver’s blood sample through a search warrant because blood has been held to be an item under the 4th Amendment by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Therefore, no refusal weekends are simply implemented by obtaining search warrants for the blood of drivers who are suspected and arrested for driving while intoxicated. In fact, no refusal weekends, for all practical purposes, are absolutely no different from any other ordinary weekend in Texas. The primary significance of a no refusal weekend is that many counties reserve a judge who will essentially be on-call and readily available at all times of the weekend to grant search warrants for specimens of blood in the event people should refuse to consent.

Consequences of a No Refusal Weekend in Collin County, Texas

The foremost consequence of a no refusal weekend is that police officers and prosecutors will be able to build much stronger cases against those who are arrested for driving while intoxicated and subsequently found to have had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08 or more. Without breath or blood evidence, prosecutors generally have to rely on the defendant’s performance of field sobriety tests and other indirect, circumstantial evidence of intoxication which can be mitigated and/or refuted by the defense at a trial on the matter. However, direct evidence of the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration is significantly more difficult to overcome at a trial because a concentration of 0.08 or more is considered to be legally intoxicated in Texas. If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated, or if you have questions about no refusal weekends in Texas, please feel free to contact me at (972) 372-4054 for more information.