DWI: Getting Away With It Is Getting Tougher In Harris County

Drinking and driving is serious business in Harris County, and to prove it, the District Attorney's office held a press conference this morning to promote some changes they've made.

"A lot of drunk drivers take advantage of the system," said Catherine Evans, a prosecutor in the DA's office. "[Drunk] drivers shouldn't have the option to get on the road and risk the safety of citizens."

Representatives from the county announced a federal grant of $669,000 that will beef up law enforcement efforts to stop drinking and driving. Or at least catch more drunks.

The money funds the new program for three years, and here are few ways your drinking and driving habits will change.

3. No more saying No. "No refusal" nights have been around Harris County for awhile, but the federal money expands the program.

If you refuse the breath or field sobriety tests now, there are extra prosectuors, judges and a blood-nurse ready to streamline the whole process. All that won't be done on site, but the cop will take the person to one of the DWI centers in Harris County. (Most often HPD's central booking at 61 Riesner.)

"This is serious business. If you refuse, they're going to get your blood," said Brian Lumpkin, an assistant chief with HPD.

2. Can't just play it safe on the holidays.  No refusal nights in the past -- Harris County paid for 22 a year -- used to set up on Fourth of July or Halloween or any celebration when booze was standard.

The federal money, however, covers the program for every Friday and Saturday night of the year. No-refusal holidays will continue, too, and so will a couple other random nights here and there. Including this Halloween.

Any night, as Evans put it, that could be considered a "typical drinking night."

1. Can't run from the cops on those country back roads. The old program primarily focused on Washington Avenue and other "high profile" areas. The new system expands it throughout the county.

Since a judge and nurse won't have to be on site, officers in Pasadena or La Porte or wherever can bring in their suspected drunk and get his blood. Doing that in the past was almost pointless, because it could take three or four hours, or longer, to get the warrant to draw blood.

But with the new program, at least if things work out the way the cops and the DA are hoping, it won't take much longer than 15 minutes.

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