Odessa police see increase in DWI arrests since No Refusal policy

Odessa police see increase in DWI arrests since No Refusal policy

ODESSA, TX (KWES) - It's pretty easy to just get in your car after a night of drinking. But a 2-year-old policy that made it harder for you to fight if you were drinking is working for Odessa police.

"It's been a great thing because our numbers have skyrocketed especially within the last two years," said Corporal Steve LeSueur with the Odessa Police Department.

It's called the No Refusal policy where an officer is able to send a probable cause affidavit electronically to an on-call judge. Then, they can sign a search warrant on an iPad and send it back to the officer before they take the suspect to the jail to draw blood. A process that took about three hours but now, takes minutes to an hour.

"It takes an officer off the street for several hours, the paperwork can be dozens of pages so it can take quite a while," said LeSueur. "It can be frustrating as an officer to arrest somebody especially if they refuse, ends up going to court and it gets dismissed simply because they refused."

Before the policy, drivers were able to refuse both a breathalyzer and a blood test making the process take longer, but now, the immediacy of No-Refusal allows better evidence when prosecuting cases.

"It may take a while to get that approved, but it's better to have that than nothing at all," said LeSueur.

But since an officer must provide probable cause to a judge in order to get the search warrant, Criminal Defense Attorney Sara Spector said there's actually no refusal, despite the policy name.

"If you say no in Texas, they still have to get a warrant, if they do get a warrant after they draw the blood if it comes up over a .08 or if there were drugs in your system, you still have a right to a hearing  to see if your driver's license is suspended," said Spector. "The judge and you hire an attorney, a judge will determine whether there was probable cause to take your blood. The best policy is to ask for an attorney. If someone asks you to do DWI tests, you can respectfully tell the officer, 'I don't feel comfortable doing that, I'd like to talk to my attorney first.' At that point they probably will arrest you. If you don't do any tests and there's no evidence of liquor in your car, most likely you're not going to have evidence against you."

Since the policy was implemented, Odessa police have went from 583 DWI arrests in 2014 to 664 in 2015 and 667 in 2016. Police said that number continues to grow.

"Our goal is not to make thousands of arrests, the number is not the biggest priority," said LeSueur. "Our priority is to save lives."

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