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Knowing Your Rights for the Upcoming Texas No Refusal Weekend

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Knowing Your Rights for the Upcoming Texas No Refusal Weekend

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Labor Day weekend is also a “No Refusal” weekend in Houston. Texas prosecutors like “No Refusal” holidays because they have a deterrent effect on drunk driving. Statistics show that an inordinate number of drunk driving fatalities occur during holidays, including St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day (July 4th), Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas weekends.

A “No Refusal” weekend is a time period in which law enforcement officers can obtain warrants to quickly collect blood evidence from drivers suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). Although the words “No Refusal” might cause most to surmise that drivers don’t have the right to say no to an officer’s request for breath or blood samples, the term means that drivers’ refusals won’t prevent the officer from obtaining a warrant to sample suspects’ blood.

This post can help you know your rights for the upcoming “No Refusal” weekend and what to do if, despite your best efforts, a police officer pulls you over on a suspicion of drunk driving.

What Happens on a “No Refusal” Weekend in Texas?

If a driver refuses to submit to field sobriety testing on a “No Refusal” weekend, the officer can expedite the process required to obtain a search warrant. Typically, when a driver is pulled over for a suspected DUI/DWI, the officer asks him or her to submit to a breath or blood tests.

The driver’s options are to say yes or no to the officer:

  • If the driver consents, the officer takes the test sample.
  • If the driver refuses, the officer proceeds to request a search warrant to obtain a blood sample.

In reality, the officer can obtain a search warrant any day of the year. However, on a “No Refusal” weekend, local agencies make more resources available to get more warrants and, as a result, more blood samples, including:

  • A readily available magistrate to review/sign necessary affidavits for officers’ search warrants
  • Availablility of blood-draw nurses
  • Dedicated officers to enforce DUI/DWI offenses

On a “No Refusal” weekend, all police officers are more likely to seek blood evidence if and when a driver refuses to submit to field testing.

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Aren’t All Drivers Legally Required to Submit to Chemical Field Sobriety Tests?

Under Texas’s implied consent law, every individual stopped for driving while intoxicated should provide a breath or blood sample to a law enforcement officer. However, about half of all DWI suspects in Harris County and throughout Texas don’t voluntarily provide a sample. These suspects bear collateral consequences, such as administrative driver’s license suspension.

More importantly, prosecutors bear evidentiary consequences, such as the suspected driver’s refusal to provide evidence against himself or herself. For this reason, law enforcement agents and prosecutors have focused on using search warrants to get chemical samples from suspects who refuse to voluntarily submit to testing.

The Vehicular Assault Team (VAT), formed by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, is intended to ensure that law enforcement collects a blood or breath sample from all suspects detained for suspected DUI/DWI. The intermediate goal of VAT is to fully prosecutor offenders, but the ultimate goal is to decrease drunk driving fatalities over high-profile holidays.

What’s the Point of the “No Refusal” Weekend in Houston?

Law enforcement officers are placed on high alert. They’re looking specifically for drunk drivers.

However, the overarching reason behind the “No Refusal” weekend is to deter those who’ve been drinking from driving. That’s because Texas is now the “deadliest state” in the country where DWI fatalities are concerned. Texas laws to decrease drunk driving deaths has been somewhat effective, but government lawmakers want to do more.

Educated drivers may know they have the right to decline the officer’s demand for chemical field tests but, according to Texas prosecutors, the refusal of many DWI suspects to provide a chemical sample after DWI arrest is a significant hurdle to convicting drunk drivers.

Legal Intoxication and Probable Cause

The “No Refusal” weekend doesn’t mean the driver can’t say no to the officer’s request to perform a field sobriety test but, if the officer suspects the driver has been drinking, he or she will probably ask the driver to submit to field testing:

  • The result of testing is likely to prompt the officer to make an arrest.
  • Recognize that if you’ve had an alcoholic beverage on a “No Refusal” weekend, it doesn’t mean you’re legally intoxicated.
  • Texas law says it’s legal for the driver to get behind the wheel—as long as you’re not “intoxicated.” Intoxication is confirmed by a BAC level of 0.08 percent or more.

When a law enforcement officer pulls a driver over, he or she seeks to develop “probable cause” to arrest him or her. The officer in the moment must decide if proof beyond a reasonable doubt exists that the driver is guilty of driving while intoxicated.

Should Suspected Drivers Submit to Testing on a “No Refusal” Weekend?

No. Don’t provide a breath or blood sample. If you refuse the officer, he or she must request a search warrant to obtain the blood or breath test in Texas. Consider:

  • If you consent, there’s little legal recourse because you agreed to submit to testing.
  • If the officer must take the additional step to request the search warrant, he or she must submit an affidavit stating probable cause existed.
  • If the on-call magistrate agrees that the officer established probable cause, he or she may proceed to issue the warrant.
  • If you refused to provide the sample and the officer can’t establish probable cause, he or she can’t forcibly draw a blood sample.
  • If your blood sample is drawn according to the warrant, the affidavit submitted by the officer can be reviewed by the trial court and your defense attorney.
  • If the magistrate inappropriately assigned probable cause and signed the warrant, blood evidence might be excluded later by a judge.

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How Should a Motorist Respond to a Police Officer’s Request for Breath or Blood Samples?

Politely refuse the officer’s request for any field sobriety testing or alcohol evaluations. Stay calm and compliant if the officer obtains a warrant to draw blood:

  • If you refuse the officer’s request, your driver’s license will be suspended for 180 days or more.
  • Note: You won’t be subject to any punishment because you (solely) refused to submit to the officer’s request.
  • If you offer a blood or breath sample and the test shows a BAC level of at least 0.08 percent, your driver’s license will be suspended at least 90 days up to two years.
  • Contact an experienced DUI/DWI attorney as soon as possible. He or she will help you to fight the license suspension at an Administrative License Revocation Program (ALR) hearing. Your attorney can also help you get an Occupational License.

Contact an Experienced DUI/DWI Lawyer in Houston TX

Carefully weigh the decision to drive after consuming any alcohol. This is always the best way to avoid getting pulled over for suspected drunk driving on a “No Refusal” weekend. If you’re stopped, remember you can—and should—refuse to provide a blood or breath specimen.

If you or someone you care about is facing a DUI/DWI charge in Texas, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Greg Tsioros, a former Harris County District Attorney’s office prosecutor, has the negotiation skills and experience you need now. Contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros in Houston to arrange an initial case evaluation.

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