Tarrant County to Publicly Shame Drunk Drivers. Dallas Isn't Ready to Go That Far.
If your New Year's weekend plans include a destination in Tarrant County and you have a nasty and terribly irresponsible habit of driving drunk, your boozebaggery and bad decisions can make you famous -- which is to say, infamous. The Tarrant County District Attorey's Office will publish the names of anyone charged with a DWI over the weekend on the county website.
It's the first time the county is instituting the publicly shaming clearinghouse of names. "It will be on their mind when they're out drinking and partying over the New Year's" holiday, Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert tells Unfair Park. He says the idea is to appeal to drivers' pride and self-respect. After all, drunk drivers' spouses, grandmothers, employers, parents and children can scroll down the alphabetical list and point fingers at those who rang in the new year by risking their own lives and the lives of everyone else on the street. So, cheers! ... to not doing that.
Meanwhile, in Dallas ...
While the names of Dallas County holiday weekend drunk drivers won't be neatly organized on the county's website, they are, as always, public domain. District Attorney Craig Watkins says he's "indifferent" to the idea of an online drunk tank. "I understand the rationale behind it because it will decrease the number of folks driving this weekend," he tells us. "This is just another tool he's using to keep the roads safe for New Year's."
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If you think you can easily shake the charge in court by not taking a breathalyzer in either county, think again. As ever, dozens of police departments in both Dallas and Tarrant counties are instituting the no-refusal policy, essentially a holiday tradition when police can obtain a warrant for the blood of those who refuse breathalyzer tests. Stubborn drunks (or sobers, theoretically) will be restrained and needles plunged into their arms to reveal their true state of mind, however adept they may be at field sobriety tests. No doubt you recall we wrote extensive about the no-refusal policy in this 2009 cover story.
"It has saved lives for us," Alpert says. "As long as we've been doing this, there's only one fatality that we've had during a no-refusal weekend." He adds that every year, the number of people consenting to tests goes up and the number of warrants goes down.
Alpert says no-refusal weekends made news more often when the county first began instituting them several years ago. Publicity and chatter surrounding these policies is often what makes people think twice about driving drunk, he says, so as conversation about no-refusal weekends died down over the years, his office had to get creative.
Last July 4th weekend, Tarrant County published photos of everyone convicted of a DWI in the past year. This weekend's database will not include photos. But if it's a success, the next go-around might. Public-shaming methods are constantly morphing with creativity and new technology.
Alpert says he's motivated to create new efforts to reduce drunk driving because of cases he's worked on where people have been killed: "The worst photographs that I've ever had to look at as a prosecutor are vehicular crashes."
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