Tarrant County Expands No-Refusal Program

9-year-old victim of DWI-related crash encourages people not to drink and drive

The Tarrant County District Attorney's office is preparing for its first no-refusal program for the Thanksgiving holiday.

County leaders secured a Texas Department of Transportation grant to fund the program seven times per year instead of the two weekends -- New Year's and the Fourth of July -- that the program has run since its inception.

The program will now run on New Year's, Super Bowl, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. During operations, local judges are on standby to issue warrants to collect blood samples of any drivers suspected of intoxicated driving who refuses a breath test or blood sample.

"It costs money. We need funds to expand this program, and now we have those funds," Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert said.

Alpert, who oversees the program, said he is asked regularly why the program, which has only seen one fatality since its start, isn't conducted year round. He said the issue is money.

Chilli Vasquez, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a 2011 DWI-related crash in Fort Worth, is helping to spread the word about the upcoming no-refusal period.

"Please don't drink and drive over the holiday, because kids could get injured that you don't know," she said in a prepared statement.

The young girl made national headlines and visited "Weekend Today" earlier this month for the four-page letter she read during the victim impact statement portion of the trial of the man who hit her and her aunt's car.

The statement, which you can read here, details her injuries, hospital stay and feelings. It then asks Jeremy Solis to look at her words and her and asks how he feels now about the accident.

The district attorney's office says Solis was nearly three times the legal limit in the middle of the afternoon when the crash happened.

Alpert said he hopes that who haven listened to his message for years will listen to Vasquez.

"And I don't see how anyone can hear Chilli's words and not be touched by that and realize in a very visible way that this is the consequence," he said. "And we don't want another child at this press conference telling how their life has changed."

The Thanksgiving no-refusal period starts Wednesday and runs through the end of the weekend. The DA's office plans to post the names and ages of those arrested on suspicion of DWI during the period as another deterrent to drinking and driving.

The district attorney's office has also adopted the Vasquez family this holiday season to help make sure that Chilli Vasquez has an enjoyable holiday despite all the medical bills.

For more on how you can help, visit the district attorney's website.

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