Criminal Justice Committee Hears Deuell's DWI Bill
AUSTIN — On Tuesday, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee took up SB 261, a bill that I believe will drastically reduce the number of drunk driving deaths in Texas. SB 261 would allow police officers to automatically take a blood or breath sample from a suspected repeat drunk driver. Our state consistently leads the nation in drunk driving and I am confident that the passage of this bill will make our roads safer for families across Texas.
With my bill, drunk driving suspects would no longer be allowed to refuse a breath or blood test if they have already been arrested two or more times for drunk driving. Texas already allows police officers to take a breath or blood sample if a DWI suspect causes a wreck that results in death or serious injury. SB 261 would expand that authority in cases where the accident involved injury that required the victim to be taken to a hospital or clinic for medical care. It would also permit blood and breath tests of DWI suspects driving with a child in the car, or suspects with a prior intoxication felony conviction or two prior DWI convictions.
I am happy to have the support of judges and law enforcement officers across the state, including Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley. Bradley testified before the committee on Tuesday, saying that breath and blood test refusals make it hard to convict drunk drivers. He said that more than half of all DWI suspects refuse to take a breath tests, and while officers try and get a warrant for a blood test, a process that can take hours, these suspects sober up. Bradley believes that SB 261 would go a long way to help law enforcement officials get dangerous repeat drunk drivers off the roads and reduce courtroom waste as well as create other benefits for the criminal justice system.
In some places, my bill would only expand on what some cities have begun already . Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo testified that his officers have already conducted three "no-refusal" weekends, where a judge is on-hand to issue court orders for those DWI suspects that refuse a breathalyzer. He said cities such as Austin prove the effectiveness of no-refusal laws in convicting drunk drivers. So far, his program has been very successful, netting nearly 60 misdemeanor drunk drivers.
To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0102 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: firstname.lastname@example.org.