In early April 2021, the Texas Department of Public Safety implemented a “no refusal” DWI policy in advance of the Poteet Strawberry Festival. These initiatives are often implemented around holidays and heavy travel times and are designed to reduce the number of intoxicated drivers on the roads. But many point to the term “no refusal” as a potentially misleading slogan that could lead drivers to give up their rights. What should Texans know about no refusal DWI policies, and what happens if you do try to refuse a field sobriety test during a no refusal period?
What Are No Refusal Initiatives?
These initiatives are promoted by law enforcement as a period when drivers who are suspected of DWI aren’t allowed to refuse a field sobriety test, breathalyzer, or even a blood test. However, there are important constitutional considerations at play, and simply slapping the term “no refusal” on a particular weekend won’t waive drivers’ due process rights.
In other words, your rights as a Texas driver remain the same regardless of whether it’s a “refusal” or “no refusal” weekend.
The true thrust of a no refusal weekend is that there are more law enforcement resources devoted toward intercepting possibly drunk drivers. This means that you’re more likely to encounter police on the road, whether at a checkpoint or just sitting guard with a radar gun. Police may also have judges on call to issue warrants if someone does refuse a sobriety test, as well as nurses available to draw blood on short notice. (Because alcohol is metabolized relatively quickly, waiting a few hours for a blood draw can sometimes offer enough time for the driver to sober up.)
What Rights Do You Have During A No Refusal Weekend?
Like many states, Texas is an “implied consent” state, which means that the mere act of driving on a public provides implied consent for a sobriety test. However, regardless of whether a certain day or weekend has been designated as no refusal, police officers must have probable cause before they can stop a vehicle for suspicion of DWI. Probable cause usually involves the violation of a traffic law (like failure to yield, speeding, or following too closely), swerving across the center line, or driving recklessly.
But even if you’re pulled over, you can refuse a field sobriety test (or a breath or blood test). However, your refusal may come with some legal consequences. Refusing a field sobriety test can often lead to the suspension of your driver’s license. If the officer believes you’re intoxicated, they may request a warrant for a blood alcohol test; once this warrant is issued, refusing to comply can subject you to some stiff legal penalties, including additional criminal charges and fines.
If you’ve been arrested and charged with DWI, the story isn’t over—there may be some legal defenses available. It’s important to contact an experienced DWI attorney as quickly as possible to preserve your rights and mitigate the potential consequences of your arrest.