Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert says he just has to look at the numbers to know the “No Refusal” program is having an impact on DWI cases in Tarrant County.Since the county began implementing the program half a dozen years ago, the number of DWI cases with scientific evidence — blood or breath test results that showed the defendant’s intoxication level — has jumped, leading to more guilty pleas and more convictions. This fiscal year alone, 81 percent of misdemeanor DWI cases filed in the county had scientific evidence.“When I was a misdemeanor attorney, there was maybe 20 or 25 percent of the cases that had breath tests. There was no blood being done back then., Alpert said. “It is totally turned upside down. The vast majority of our filed cases now all of a sudden have scientific evidence, which is great. It’s a huge change in the way that these cases have been handled.”But more important, Alpert said, is that the No Refusal program and the public awareness that comes with it has led to a decrease in the number of traffic fatalities over the holidays.“In the six or seven years we’ve done this, to have one or two fatalities over the most dangerous holidays in the state and in the country, to me it’s a success,” he said.He said it has also led to fewer DWI cases being filed. “A good 25 percent of the participating agencies have had zero arrests,” Alpert said. “I’d like to think all the exposure and all the publicity has accomplished what’s always been the goal of this program, which is to deter people from being tempted to commit the offense of driving while intoxicated more than adding to the number of convictions we have for the offense.”In previous years, the No Refusal crackdown was conducted on two holidays weekends —July Fourth and New Year’s.This fiscal year, however, the grant was expanded to conduct the crack downs on six holiday weekends, as well as Super Bowl weekend. The Labor Day campaign — the last of the fiscal year — kicks off at 8 p.m. Friday and ends at 4 a.m. Monday.Typically, about 29 law enforcement agencies participate in the program in Tarrant County. Under the program, officers faced with a suspected drunk driver who refuses to give a breath test write a search warrant for a sample of the driver’s blood. If a magistrate signs off on the warrant, the driver is taken to an area hospital to have his/her blood drawn.Alpert said nurses will also be on hand at the Fort Worth police station and North Richland Hills police station for blood draws to be conducted there.The program is funded through a $300,430 grant from the Texas Department of Transportation.Those arrested and charged with DWI during the crackdown will have their names and ages published on the district attorney’s website, www.tarrantda.com.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 Twitter: @deannaboyd