How effective are "No Refusal" weekends?

“No refusal” weekends have become more and more popular. When they first started, they were generally limited to major holidays, such as New Years and Labor Day. Now they are put in place more often, and in some counties, every weekend is “no refusal” weekend.

In case you don’t know, these are weekends when the police ensure judges are available to sign warrants to get a blood sample in case someone who is arrested for driving while intoxicated refuses a breath test. Once they refuse, the officer prepares an affidavit, and requests a search warrant, which is then presented to a judge – usually by fax. If the judge believes a search warrant should be issued – which is almost always – they will sign the search warrant, and the person will be forced to give a blood sample.

 No refusal weekends are probably effective in terms of prosecution, since the State will always have a test result to rely on. There’s a serious question about how effective they are in terms of making the streets safer though.

An Austin television station recently did a study, looking at the number of traffic accidents in 2017 during no refusal days and other days. There were 142 no refusal days (yes, more than ¼ of the year), and 223 regular days. Their analysis revealed that there were actually more crashes during no refusal days, than other days.

What those numbers mean is certainly subject to debate. Given the large amount of grant money (1.5 million just for Austin) being provided to support this initiative, the study calls into question whether that money is being well spent. If the aim is to makes the streets safer, it doesn’t appear as if it’s accomplishing that result.

Walter Reaves
Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.
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