No-refusal weekend results in 73 DWI arrests

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The Austin Police Department made 73 drunken-driving arrests over the Fourth of July weekend as part of a no-refusal policy that began July 1 and ended on the holiday.

The department extended the policy after only enforcing it July 3 and 4 last year, when it made 25 arrests.

During no-refusal enforcement, if a suspected drunken driver refuses breath and blood tests, police obtain a warrant and take a sample of the suspect’s blood. The Austin Police Department has enforced the rule on major holidays and special-event weekends since October 2008.

Police say a no-refusal system saves lives, despite hearing from citizens who feel the policy is intrusive. APD Lt. Derek Galloway said no DWI units will enforce the rule without receiving a warrant granting permission on probable cause.

“We’re not just strapping you down while you’re kicking and screaming and taking your blood,” Galloway said. “We’re taking it because we have probable cause to believe you’ve been involved in drunk driving, which isn’t as major a crime as murder, but could turn into one.”

Galloway said 26 people were killed due to drunk driving accidents last year in Austin, and no-refusal weekends help keep deadly accidents from occurring. Galloway said he hopes citizens will pay attention to enforcement on special days, but never drive drunk in the first place.

“It’s tragic, and it keeps touching everyone,” he said. “If you feel like you’re intoxicated, then you should never have gotten behind the wheel. It’s a very simple solution.”

While some major cities have gone to a no-refusal system year-round, Galloway said continually enforcing the policy requires increasing police staff and increasing funding.

APD will conduct its next no-refusal initiative Labor Day weekend.