Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle tells Unfair Park he expects to launch the so-called no-refusal program full-time in September after key legislation passed Sunday that makes obtaining a blood search warrant easier.
"That was the hold up," says Kunkle, who explains that the old law stipulated that only certain judges could issue an evidentiary search warrant relating to suspected DWI offenses. Now, the law has been broadened to allow any magistrate who is a state-licensed attorney to issue a blood search warrant -- and such magistrates are at the jail 24/7. "We only did it on special weekends because of the difficulties of finding judges to sign the search warrants."
The bill, known as the Nicole "Lilly" Lalime Act -- so named for a 13-year-old killed by a drunk driver last December in Harris County -- originally included "sobriety checkpoints," an item much heralded by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. However, that part of the bill was lopped off, much to the chagrin of North Texas M.A.D.D. director Mary Kardell: "They just watered it down and just wouldn't do the right thing," she says. "Texas is going to continue to lead the nation in deaths if the House won't take a stand."
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The bill primarily expanded the definition of offenses committed while intoxicated to include operating water crafts. It also allows police officers to collect a breath or blood sample without a warrant if they have reason to believe the suspect has a prior DWI conviction or if there is a child in the car.
Kunkle believes the primary role of the no-refusal program is to convince people there is no way they can get away with drinking and driving. "One of the biggest advantages of the no-refusal program is it does create an environment where people don't believe that there's a way to not be accountable for drunk driving," Kunkle says.
So is Kunkle excited to launch the program full-time?
"It does make me happy," he said. "It's a bill that we supported and we believe in the no-refusal process."