Thursday, March 10, 2005

Is There An Advantage To Not Providing A Sample Of Your Blood Or Breath?

As reported in the Ft. Worth Star Telegram

Texans who drink and drive and then refuse to take a test measuring their blood-alcohol level may be getting a lesser punishment than those who agree to the test.

According to the most recent statistics, 43 percent of Texans arrested on suspicion of drunken driving or boating in 2003 refused such tests and, in many of those cases, had their licenses suspended for six months instead of getting a misdemeanor drunken-driving conviction, the Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday.

Law enforcement groups have complained about the law. The Texas District and County Attorneys Association and the Texas Municipal Police Association are calling for legislation that would make refusing a blood-alcohol test a crime.

But lawmakers haven't embraced the legislation this session. Similar bills filed before also received "a chilly reception," said Keith Hampton, a lobbyist for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

"Criminalizing it doesn't make any sense," Hampton said. "It is your constitutional right not to incriminate yourself or be subject to unreasonable search and seizure."

But Shannon Edmonds, a lobbyist for the county attorneys association, said courts have upheld the state's right to collect blood and breath samples from people suspected of drunken driving.

The penalty for refusing is suspension of the driver's license for six months, and it can be used against the driver in court.

In first-time cases, the consequences for taking the test and having a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit of 0.08 is a three-month license suspension and a misdemeanor drunken-driving conviction, which carries a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a fine of $2,000. And, based on the blood-alcohol content, you could be exposed to a $2,000 per year charge by DPS just to keep your license.

The choice is yours, just make sure you know your rights!

For information on DWIs in Austin Texas, click here