Huntsville Police Department ‘No Refusal’ policy deemed success
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 00:09
Five DWI arrests and one DUI citation and an increased number of designated drivers have HPD deeming its Sept. 6 no refusal initiative, where a drunk driving suspect cannot refuse a breath or blood sample, a success.
The purpose of the initiative was to reduce the number of drunk drivers out on the road, and that was accomplished, though mostly by public awareness of the initiative and utilization of designated drivers rather than arrests.
According to HPD Lt. Curt Landrum, the number of people arrested that night was only slightly higher than normal, but many people that were stopped had a designated driver specifically because of the press release advertising it.
"We were very pleased to find that there were a number of people that had designated drivers because we had put out the press release of the no refusal, so we look at it a success…the streets were safer because we actually had a ‘no refusal’ night," said Landrum.
Landrum also said that the force tries to do these initiatives "periodically," with the last account of a no refusal night in the Huntsville Item being Independence Day of 2011. One of the main reasons they don’t do them more often, even though they’d love to, is because of how difficult it is to coordinate all the people it takes to make a no refusal night possible.
Normally, if you get pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving and fail a field sobriety test, you will be taken into custody and a breath or blood sample will be taken.
You can refuse to give a sample, in which case a search warrant will need to be obtained (not to mention your license will be suspended for at least 180 days). For that to happen, according to Lt. Landrum, somebody from the district attorney’s office needs to come from home to write the warrant, the municipal judge has to come from home to sign the warrant, a nurse has to come to take blood samples, and so on.
Sometimes, by the time these steps are finished, the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) has already dropped, so the charge turns into a refused specimen case. On a no refusal night, the people needed to execute a warrant are already prepared to do so, and the process goes much faster.
As part of the press release, Chief Kevin Lunsford encouraged citizens to use one of Huntsville’s two taxi services or the use of designated drivers. He also informed them that many places around town give free soda to designated drivers and that some of the apartment complexes offer late night shuttles.
The release ended with a quote from Lunsford: "Our local law enforcement community wants all citizens on the roadways to be safe. We hope this initiative contributes to that goal."
As of 2010, there were nine states that were actively conducting no refusal initiatives, including Texas.
Before these tests began in Texas in 2005, the refusal rate was about 50 percent. When these initiatives began in Montgomery County, for instance, the rate dropped from around 50 percent to as low as 10 percent in 2010.
Additionally, among those who refused the test and went through the warrant process, all were above the legal limit and the average BAC was more than double the limit at .19.