BAC blood tests are the most reliable chemical tests in DWI cases. The conviction rate in these cases is over 95 percent in most jurisdictions. But because of restrictions from Texas law and the United States Supreme Court, blood tests are only available in a limited number of cases. That is, unless you happen to be pulled over during a No-Refusal Weekend.
Typically, Harris County-area law enforcement agencies have two or three of these weekends every year. They are almost always during holiday weekends, like Labor Day or Memorial Day, or holidays commonly associated with drinking and driving, like Independence Day or New Year’s Eve.
According to the Texas Transportation Code, drivers do not have the right to refuse chemical tests in some cases. It’s almost impossible to force a person to blow into a tube, but it’s rather easy to forcibly extract a blood sample. There is no right to refuse if:
The DWI involved an accident that caused death or serious bodily injury (somebody went to the hospital),
The driver is currently on DWI probation,
The driver has been convicted of DWI-Child Passenger or DWI-manslaughter, or
The defendant has at least two prior regular DWI convictions.
Technically, every weekend is a No-Refusal Weekend if Section 742.012 applies. But in the vast majority of cases, drivers have the right to refuse to provide a chemical sample. Moreover, officers must obtain search warrants to forcibly extract blood samples.
The search warrant directive comes from Birchfield v. North Dakota, a 2016 Supreme Court case. The Justices reasoned that a blood draw was a lot different from a breath test. Blood tests are much more invasive and the sample is preserved. So, officers must obtain search warrants if the defendant refuses to provide a blood sample.
Normally, officers do not bother with search warrants for chemical tests. But on No-Refusal Weekends, judges are on standby to sign search warrants on a moment’s notice. Typically, officers send defendants to police laboratories. In extreme cases, officers can literally strap the defendant to a gurney and forcibly insert a needle.
Challenging the Blood Test
Since the blood test preserves the sample, a DWI defense attorney can have an independent expert review that sample. Many times, a degreed chemist or phlebotomist comes up with a very different analysis than the one the police lab completed.
Furthermore, search warrants are highly technical instruments. Slight inconsistencies, or even a little missing information, may invalidate the warrants. If the warrant was invalid, the blood sample is inadmissible, and the prosecutor’s case usually collapses.
Reach Out to a Tenacious Harris County Lawyer
No-Refusal Weekends dot the calendar in Texas. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston, contact Jim Medley Defense Lawyer.