Under normal circumstances, should you get pulled over, the officer will ultimately request you to provide a breath or blood sample to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC). You have a right to refuse those requests, and it’s advisable that you do. The penalty for refusing is merely a longer potential license suspension, but the police only want it because it makes the case easier to prosecute. In short, it gives them more evidence. The police may still get a blood sample on any given day, but it requires them to approach a judge for a search warrant. It creates more work for a misdemeanor infraction, and it’s a process they may not always be willing to go through depending on the circumstances.
No Refusal Weekends, it turns out, aren’t much different — except that it’s their way of letting you know that they’ll actively be seeking a sample with or without your permission. They make no bones about the fact that they will stick a needle in your arm if you refuse to give a sample voluntarily. This is accomplished by keeping a magistrate available through the No Refusal weekend to review and sign search warrants for blood draws around the clock. Obviously, big events and holiday weekends draw the watchful eye of the Austin police, and there’s no bigger event associated with drinking than New Year’s Eve.
APD looks to go No Refusal full time, and their enhanced DWI enforcement bears that out. Last year the New Year’s Eve ‘No Refusal’ weekend netted 26 DWI arrests, and 24 the year before that. Incredibly, Austin Police arrested a whopping 229 people during this holiday season’s extended No Refusal period (Dec. 18th to Jan. 3), with 119 involuntary needles in the arm.
It’s important to understand that just because they can get the sample anyway does not mean that you should give your consent. Don’t be bullied by threats that the police will just get a warrant, politely make them do it. Once you have given consent, you give up the right to fight about how police got the blood, and if the warrant was sufficient. It is entirely possible to preserve your rights and be respectful, so refusing with an attitude should be avoided, particularly since you are likely going to be recorded on video.
As of now, No Refusal weekends are not full time. Until that happens, remember to arrange for a driving alternative if you’re out in Austin and have anything to drink. Be safe out there.