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No-Refusal DWI Testing Goes Full-Time in Bexar County

On any day of the week in San Antonio, people suspected of driving while intoxicated are now required to have their blood drawn if they refuse to take a breath test. Officers will be able to obtain court orders to draw blood from suspects who do not give their consent to be tested.

The change, which affects all of Bexar County, is part of a dramatic expansion of the existing "no refusal" policy that previously had been in effect only on weekends. Similar policies are in place elsewhere in Texas, and a statewide no-refusal initiative was in effect over the Fourth of July weekend in 2011.

A grant of $1.4 million from the Texas Department of Transportation will fund the policy for its first year, making Bexar County the largest metro area in the state to have a no-refusal policy in effect at all times.

Mandatory Blood Testing Sparks Controversy

Judging by the numbers, law enforcement officers in the San Antonio area appear fully willing to invoke the policy: Officers had drawn blood from nearly 2,000 drivers by late October under the weekends-only policy, relying on warrants in more than half of those cases.

The no-refusal policy has drawn criticism from a number of criminal defense lawyers and civil liberties advocates, including the ACLU. Some critics of the policy question its validity on constitutional grounds, raising due process and medical privacy concerns.

Under Texas state law, a person convicted of driving while intoxicated will receive a mandatory license suspension of at least 90 days for the first offense, or one year for subsequent offenses. A conviction for DWI also triggers mandatory jail time ranging from a minimum of 72 hours for a first conviction to 30 days for repeat offenses. Penalties increase for offenses that involve aggravating factors such as assault or the presence of a child passenger.

Help is Available for People Facing DWI Charges

If you are facing DWI charges, remember that being charged does not necessarily mean that you are guilty or that you will be convicted. To help protect your rights and make sure you get the fair treatment you deserve, discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.