Law enforcement officials across Cameron County may wear different uniforms, but they all have the same message for residents enjoying the Fourth of July: If you drink and drive, you will be arrested.
Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz, Brownsville Police Chief Orlando C. Rodriguez and Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Lt. Johnny Hernandez gathered outside the Brownsville Convention & Visitor’s Bureau Monday morning to announce the county’s no refusal policy for suspected drunken drivers.
“Cameron County has seen success with the DWI ‘No Refusal’ program, and it has helped my office prosecute and rehabilitate first-time offenders and punish repeat offenders,” Saenz said. “However, there are still families losing loved ones as a result of drunk driving and that needs to stop.”
The no-refusal policy allows law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant for a blood draw if a motorist suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol exercises their right to refuse a breath test. Cameron County instituted a year-round no refusal policy three years ago and since then law enforcement officials have made nearly 3,000 arrests, with 487 DWI arrests already in the first six months of 2018.
Saenz also used the press conference to remind families hitting the roads over the holiday weekend to do three things when behind the wheel.
“Number one, to be defensive about your driving. Do not text and drive. Be watching for the other guy. Do not assume that he’s going to yield the right of way. Do not assume that he’s going to stop at that red light. Do not assume that he’s going to pass properly. Drive defensively,” Saenz said.
Rodriguez said that the consequences of drinking and driving can be catastrophic and DWI costs can be in the thousands of dollars.
“If you’re going to be celebrating this Fourth of July week, and it’s a weeklong celebration, be responsible,” Rodriguez said. “Designate a driver. More importantly, understand that the consequences of drinking and driving can be catastrophic.
“Never mind the inconveniences of the loss of income because a DWI is going to set you back thousands of dollars in fines and fees and all kinds of money and inconveniences that you’re going to face, missed time for work. However, there’s no price tag you can put on the loss of a life because somebody decided to drink and drive.”
Rodriguez urged revelers who decide to drink to make sure they have a designated driver, but also asked the community to report suspected drunken drivers by calling 911.
“But it starts with you and being responsible,” Rodriguez said.
Hernandez used the opportunity to remind Cameron County residents that alcohol-related fatalities typically occur during the holidays, which is why law enforcement ramps up its presence.
“This is a very important program. The no refusal program is essentially implemented to help law enforcement deter DWI driving. So it’s a very important program,” Hernandez said. “During the holiday periods is usually when most of our fatalities involving alcohol occur, which becomes very dangerous during this period.”
Last year, DPS made 500 DWI arrests, Hernandez said.
“Which is a good deal for us because it avoids the tragedies that occur when people get behind the wheel and decide to drink and drive,” Hernandez said. “The impact is very, very devastating … both financially and emotionally for families that are involved in accidents that result in injury and death.”
While DPS where’s a tan uniform and the Brownsville PD dons blue, the message for residents is the same from every law enforcement agency.
“The motto is don’t drink and drive,” Hernandez said. “So be careful and enjoy the holidays.”