With Texas re-opening and the 4th of July holiday quickly approaching, local law enforcement wants Cameron County residents to know they’ll be patrolling roadways on the lookout for drivers who appear to be intoxicated.
County-wide, police departments are collaborating with the sheriff’s department, constables, and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to obtain warrants from on-call judges to transport anyone suspected of driving while intoxicated to a local hospital for a blood test.
In Cameron County, the No Refusal policy is enforced year-round. The program began in June 2015 in response to high DWI rates across the county, prompting the Brownsville Police Department to enforce the policy on holidays and weekends.
The department saw a need to address the issue more frequently, so Brownsville PD enlisted the help of the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office. According to District Attorney Luis V. Saenz, no county south of Corpus or Laredo has a program like it.
Surrounded by law enforcement in front of Expressway 77/83, he said, “If we embrace the law, it says that when the investigation of a DWI offender is ongoing, that the investigation officer will ask the person in custody if he or she will submit to a test. The person has the right to refuse that. Some people accept it and they do a breath intoxilyzer test, and if it tests more than 0.8 the person is arrested and that’s the culmination of the investigation,” said Saenz.
“Of course, a lot of people, as is their right, choose not to do that. That is where the No Refusal comes in. When a person exercises his or her right not to give a breathalyzer, then these officers here will go and draw up a warrant.”
Officers are able to communicate with the judges who issue these warrants through an online system. Brownsville Police Department Chief Felix Sauceda, Jr. said that his department averages about 100 DWI arrests per year, adding, “We stand deeply in collaboration and support of what it is we’re doing and we’re in this together.”
Texas DPS Regional Director Victor Escalon reminded drivers that there’s zero tolerance for driving while intoxicated in Cameron County. “One of the main goals is that we prevent fatalities and crashes when we’re out there, and we can’t do this by ourselves.”
As Harlingen PD Assistant Chief Miryam Anderson explained, “Your wife may have to go to the store or the doctor’s office. Your daughter may have to leave after school to drive home or attend a game, or a band concert. Harlingen PD remains committed to making sure that those who drink do not occupy our streets.”
Ultimately, the goal is to prevent injury and death, said Sheriff Omar Lucio. His deputies will be patrolling both the streets and the waterways. “Especially on the holidays, you don’t want to be crying. You want to be celebrating. It’s hard for us to go out in the middle of the night to stop at somebody’s door and tell them that their loved one was involved in a traffic accident and is no longer with us,” he said.
“That is the hardest thing for any officer to do. This is the way we’re going to keep people safe.”