Crack Down on DWI's

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

For people in Midland County who've been arrested more than twice for a DWI, pre-trial courts have the option of monitoring their alcohol consumption. 

One of the ways they prevent subsequent DWI arrests is through the Ignition Interlock. 

It's a device that mounts to the car, requiring the driver to take a breathalyzer test. 

If the blood alcohol level is above the legal limit, the car won't start, preventing the intoxicated driver from hitting the road. 

One local organization says this method is highly successful and wants to tighten the current laws.

"We are looking at encouraging legislators in the State of Texas and even here in Midland County to take a look at this and possible require first time offenders to have an interlock installed on their automobile," Charles Hodges with Stop DWI, Inc., said.

Stop DWI decided to pursue this legislation in Texas based on its success in New Mexico where a first time DWI arrest requires the offender to install the ingnition interlock. Stop DWI wants to see Texas pass that same law.

"I think it's going to reduce DWI's for Midland County, and we hope to see it in other counties as well," Hodges said.

Studies by the the New Mexico Traffic Safety Bureau shows that as they began using the interlocks in 2002, DWI arrests, crashes, and fatalities all dropped. From 2002 to 2006, fatalities went down 15%.

"We thought it would be a great way to intensify our supervision," Tim Long, Director of Pretrial Services in Midland County, said.

Pretrial courts can assign the offender to a monitoring unit for any length of time up until the trial date.

"It's another tool to protect society, to help watch and make sure these people are obiding by the terms and conditions of their bond or probation," Long said.

The ignition interlocks aren't the only tool that prevents DWI's, the scram is another unit used by pretrial courts providing strict supervision.

"It's a device that goes around the ankle," Long said. "Basically, it's a 24 hour supervision scram unit. It's measuring 24 hours a day to see if they're consuming alcohol."

Right now, there are five scram units for the Midland County pretrial courts, and all five are being used.

And it's expensive. The cost for these units is absorbed by the offender. Interlocks average around $75 per month while the scram units cost $300 each month.

"Others in the Permian Basin, in Ector County, they require an interlock," Hodges said. "They do not use the scram to my knowledge at this point, and interlock devices are used in other counties as well."

Stop DWI hopes to present this new legislation during the fall session. It's a project they started this past weekend.

"We're going to run data on this," Hodges said. "I'm going to keep up with statistics from DWI instances from Memorial Day weekend through January one. So we have some data on what's going on with the interlock data system, the scram and GPS."

Midland County currently uses about 90 GPS devices that constantly track movement. 

Pre-trial courts are hoping to increase their ability to monitor repeat DWI offenders. They're asking for five more scram units.      

Initially, it will cost the county about $10,000, but those arrested will pay that money back in their fees.