County’s first no refusal weekend deemed success

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By PHIL MAJOR

publisher@woodcountymonitor.com

Wood County’s first No Refusal Weekend has been deemed a success by District Attorney Angela Albers, who helped set up Wood County’s first such event over the Labor Day holiday.

Law enforcement agencies from around the county joined in, as well as judges to issue warrants and medical personnel to draw blood.

Albers and two assistant district attorneys also rode with the officers.

She said after riding the roads of Wood County until 3 a.m. for two nights, it appeared that word had gotten out, because there was very little traffic – something that the officers commented about.

“I was able to truly appreciate the hard work of police officers and the courage they demonstrate as they leave the safety of their squad cars and step out into the unknown on a traffic stop,” Albers said of the ride alongs.

The experience allowed the prosecutors to see first-hand how officers handle DWI cases.

The program involves judges issuing warrants for suspected drunk drivers to have their blood drawn, if they refuse a voluntary breath test.

In three cases, the suspects agreed to have blood drawn without need for a warrant.

It was enough of a success that the program will likely become annual, and moved to different holidays.

Albers said that officers suggested Memorial Day weekend might be a good time for the next one.

Albers had heard of no refusal weekends being tried in other counties, and she thought it was a good idea.

“It was a goal of mine since I was appointed (in February),” she said.

She characterized the issue of drunk driving in Wood County as prevalent, with numerous cases coming through the misdemeanor court, as well as the huge number of fatalities statewide that result from drunk driving crashes.

The state legislature recently added another sentencing option for prosecutors that allows deferred adjudication, Albers explained, which adds a tool of having the defendants seek counseling.

Prosecutors also recommend defendants join an Alcoholics Anonymous group.

Agencies participating included officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Alba, Hawkins, Mineola, Quitman and Winnsboro Police Departments, Wood County constables and deputies from the Wood County Sheriff’s Office.

Mineola Police Chief Chuck Bittner commented, “Thank you to the Wood County District Attorney’s Office for organizing and being an active participant with all Wood County law enforcement agencies over the DWI No Refusal Labor Day Weekend. The Mineola Police Department was out in full force and is happy to report that the event was a big success.”

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