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March 17, 2009 (512) 463-0300

COMMITTEE CONSIDERS BILL TO MANDATE BREATH TESTS FOR DWI

Sen. Bob Deuell
Sen. Bob Deuell of Greenville sponsored a bill that would mandate breath or blood tests of DWI suspects in certain situations.

(AUSTIN) — Drunk driving suspects would no longer be allowed to refuse a breath or blood test under certain circumstances, according to a bill considered before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday. 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, by Greenville Senator Bob Deuell, 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.

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley testified before the committee, saying that breath and blood test refusals make it hard to convict drunk drivers. He said more than half of all DWI suspects refuse to take a breath test, and while officers try and get a warrant for a blood test, a process that can take hours, these suspects sober up. If SB 261 passes, he said, it would go a long way to help law enforcement officials get dangerous repeat drunk drivers off the roads, as well as create other benefits for the criminal justice system. "That effect will be much more successful prosecution, much less waste of the resources in our courtrooms and, frankly, safer highways," said Bradley.

One Texas city already has such a program in place. 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. Acevedo said his program has been very successful, netting nearly 60 misdemeanor drunk drivers. "There's a lot of evidence to show that these programs work," he said.

The Senate Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Tuesday about a bill that would try and find the most cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Texas. SB 184, by Austin Senator Kirk Watson, would direct the Texas Energy Conservation Office to conduct a study and recommend to the Legislature ways to reduce carbon emissions that do not negatively impact Texas businesses or consumers. The study would look to other states and countries to find strategies that, over the lifetime of the project, result in no net cost. These would be methods that might cost money up front, but that would pay for themselves over time. The study would also have to include the proposed programs initial cost, lifetime costs, and lifetime savings. Watson said this bill is good not only for the environment, but for the economy in Texas. "While the state would be looking for ways to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions," he said, " the state would also be finding ways to save money."

The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, March 18 at 11 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

Sen. Jane Nelson
The Texas Legislative Council was honored by the Texas Senate Tuesday on the occasion of its 60th year of service. The Council provides bill drafting, computing and research services to the Legislature. Pictured above are (L-to-R) resolution sponsor Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, and TLC staffers Rita Arneil, Debbie Irvine, Kathy Clarkson, and Carolyn Trigg.

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