Holiday No Refusal Policies: What You Need to Know, Part 1

With Thanksgiving out of the way, the holiday season has officially begun. This means that many Texas communities will be working harder than ever to enforce anti-DWI laws. One particularly effective anti-DWI policy is the "no refusal" initiative. This will be the first of two posts that look at "no refusal" policies this week - check back later for more information.

Texas passed its "no refusal" law in 1995 and local municipalities have been implementing its provisions since then. At its simplest, the law allows authorities to require suspects to submit to a DWI blood test under some circumstances - even against the defendant's will. Only a minority of other states use similar policies.

Prosecutors see several benefits from "no refusal" policies. First, it is much easier to persuade a jury to convict a defendant with what appears to be cold, hard scientific proof of guilt. Blood tests make it easier to do this because juries often find complex and sophisticated laboratory evidence to be more persuasive than a police officer's eyewitness impressions.

This does not mean that blood tests are always accurate. One big criticism of the "no refusal" law is that it does not require specific training for police technicians. Like breath analysis devices, a technician can easily contaminate a sample or run the test incorrectly - either scenario could make an innocent defendant look guilty.

Nevertheless, the threat of a blood test can be intimidating for some defendants. Some defendants plead guilty to DWI simply because they believe that the jury will only look at the government's laboratory evidence.

This is often a mistake. An effective defense strategy can look carefully at the prosecutor's blood analysis to determine whether it is accurate enough to be part of the case.

Check back later this week for more on what Texans need to know about "no refusal" policies.

Sources: Salon.com, "A DWI offer you can't refuse," Jeff Winkler, Nov. 22, 2012; The Wall Street Journal, "Texas Blood Test Aims at Drunk Drivers," Nathan Koppel, Dec. 11, 2011

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