Texas Court Refuses No Refusal Weekend

I have posted before about Oregon wanting to “celebrate” the Fourth of July with a No-Refusal weekend. It seems Texas has also been holding such weekends.

checkpoint ahead

But the Texas Supreme Court has sided with the people!

The Houston Chronicle reported last week: “Texas law that lets cops draw blood without warrant tossed by appeals court.”

Texas law that allows police officers to take blood samples from suspected drunk drivers without a warrant is unconstitutional, the state’s highest criminal court ruled Wednesday.

The ruling could impact Texas’ “no refusal weekends,” including during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, when officers target suspected drunk drivers and subject them to mandatory breath and blood testing in the field. According to the ruling, law enforcement officers will need to have a warrant in hand before forcing suspects against their to submit to a blood alcohol content test.

“We hold that a nonconsensual search of a DWI suspect’s blood conducted pursuant to the mandatory-blood-draw and implied-consent provisions in the Transportation Code, when undertaken in the absence of a warrant or any applicable exception to the warrant requirement, violates the Fourth Amendment,” Judge Elsa Alcala of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrote on behalf of the five majority opinion judges. Four members of the nine-judge court dissented.

If anything at all should require a warrant, removing bodily fluids should top the list. The government’s move to make driving a “privilege” in order to justify such warrantless searches basically means that only pedestrians have constitutional rights.

I realize that drunk driving causes loss of life and limb, but why not deal with those instances as reckless driving and deal with them severely in criminal and civil court when damage is done?

I find the particulars of this case amazing.

The ruling stems from the 2012 case of David Villarreal, who was pulled over in Nueces County for a traffic violation. After refusing to perform sobriety tests in the field, Villarreal was arrested and taken to a local hospital to have his blood drawn against his will and without a warrant. The arresting officer said the move was legal because state law requires the taking of a breath or blood sample of anyone previously convicted two or more times of driving while intoxicated.

The state asked the trial judge to sentence Villarreal, who had been convicted of felony DWI in 2001 and 2005, to at least 25 years in prison.

That’s what the state considers a civilized penalty. Here is a man who has hurt no one at all, whom the state wants Texas taxpayers to support for no less than two and a half decades. All because he had been convicted of DWI for the second time seven years earlier.

Robbing a man of a third of a natural lifespan for a behavior that (thankfully!) caused no damage to anyone is outside the scope of any real justice. The sentence should have been overturned as “cruel and unusual punishment” even if the search had been allowed.

This is, in my opinion, exactly the sort of crime that calls out for the return of public flogging (again: assuming the search was Constitutional). A brief painful humbling would do far more to deter and prevent intoxicated driving. We flatter ourselves that we are so civilized because we don’t allow floggings and then don’t blink an eye at trying to imprison someone for a quarter-century over a victimless crime.