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Texas no-refusal laws in full force over summer holidays

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An increasing number of counties and states are passing no-refusal DUI laws, including counties Texas. As such, it is more important than ever for Texas residents to be aware of the substance of no-refusal laws and what it means to violate them. As we move into the summer months, where the increase in drinking, driving and boating activities often involves an increase in DUI stops as well, the topic is particularly important.

In Texas, DUI charges and a conviction can result in extreme consequences for the person accused. A failed breath test often means large fines and jail time. Historically, a refusal to take a Breathalyzer test prevented blood alcohol content levels from being determined at the time of the traffic stop. However, with no refusal laws and technological advances, such avoidances are no longer likely options.

In Texas, no refusal laws mean that while an individual suspected of drinking and driving might refuse to take a Breathalyzer test, a prosecutor or a judge can quickly execute a warrant to lawfully require a test be completed. While one can refuse to take a breath test when stopped, they cannot refuse a warrant.

Historically, the logistics of obtaining the paper warrant were time consuming, and the passage of time permitted for the potential sobering of the accused. However, with advances in technology, warrants can now be obtained more quickly than ever. Now, authorities can electronically request a warrant from an on-call judge. The warrant is then executed and sent to the officer's smart phone or electronic device.

Authorities in three Texas counties -- Harris, Montgomery and Galveston -- instituted no refusal policies over the recent Memorial Day weekend. Judges were on-call around the clock in these counties in case any warrants were required to obtain an individual's BAC.

Some vehemently oppose the no-refusal policies, arguing that they violate constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. These policies have been challenged in court, but thus far have prevailed. Texas has one of the toughest no refusal policies in the nation, authorizing the use of force to obtain a person's BAC.

It is vital to be aware of individual rights and state laws while participating in summer holiday celebrations. A false move can change a great experience to a negative and life altering one in seconds. It is also vital to be aware of the right to defend against any and all charges.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Lake Conroe is cleaning up its act on drinking," Carol Christian, May 25, 2012

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