No-Refusal Holiday Now Under Way

Tarrant County hopes to expand program with grant money

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    NEWSLETTERS

    This year's "no refusal" holiday falls during the week and ends Thursday morning, and Tarrant County will employ the first graduates of blood draw school. (Published Tuesday, Jul 3, 2012)

    Law enforcement officials are urging people to celebrate the Fourth of July responsibly.

    Tarrant County began its annual "no refusal" period for the holiday at 6 p.m. Tuesday. It runs until 6 a.m. Thursday. Officers will get search warrants for blood samples of drivers suspected of intoxicated driving who refuse a breath test.

    With Independence Day falling in the middle of the week, the no-refusal program has some differences compared to past holidays.

    The first graduates of the Tarrant County Blood Draw School will be working. They will be added to the blood technicians already drawing the blood of drivers who refuse a breath test.

    The "no refusal" campaign now includes training police officers and civilian employees to be certified to draw blood.

    "Our sincere hope is we don't have to use any of these qualified people, that people will get the message and will be safe this holiday season," Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert said.

    Certifying officers and civilian employees will save local departments some of the costs associated with "no refusal" weekends.

    "It is our sincere goal to expand it in the beginning to every weekend and, from there, make it a common place, everyday thing," Alpert said.

    Alpert said several smaller agencies in Tarrant County, such as in Dalworthington Gardens, have already gone "no refusal" year round.

    The district attorney's office expects to soon hear from the Texas Department of Transportation about grant money that could be used to send more officers to the blood draw school. The school was put together by Tarrant County College, John Peter Smith Hospital and the district attorney's office.

    Fort Worth police had an officer and civilian employee trained as part of the first class and are hoping to add more if the funding comes in.

    "If we're awarded a portion of the grant, then we'll be sending several DWI officers to the training to be qualified technicians to draw blood," Sgt. Pedro Criado said.

    The blood draws are effective when it comes to prosecutions and as a deterrent, Alpert said.

    "And that's the ultimate goal," Alpert said. "The ultimate goal is not have your name on our website; the ultimate goal is not have your blood drawn by a qualified person; it's to be safe."

    The Tarrant County District Attorney's Office post the names of those charged with DWI from the 36-hour window of this "no refusal" period, as was done during the New Year's holiday. Alpert said most of those charged from New Year's have pleaded guilty.

    In the six years of the program, Tarrant County has had just one DWI-related fatality during "no refusal" weekends.