Texas Senate passes two bills to crackdown on drunk drivers - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/31/09

Texas Senate passes two bills to crackdown on drunk drivers

 LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Sobriety check points and blood tests, two things the State Senate has now approved in Texas.  These two pieces of legislation, passed by the Senate Monday would re-introduce sobriety check points, a practice that's been banned in Texas for 15 years. Texas officers are one step closer to being able to block roads, check for drunk drivers and force suspects to take a blood or breath test. Lawmakers are hoping this will help drop the title of leading the nation in alcohol related traffic deaths.

"Someone is killed by a drunk driver every 40 minutes," says Earlene Bustillos, a MADD victim advocate. When an intoxicated driver hits the streets it can be deadly. Texas is one of 12 states nationwide without sobriety check points.

In a push to make streets safe Republican Sen. John Carona of Dallas introduced a bill that would authorize road blocks. According to the bill, officers would have to advertise the time and date of a checkpoint. No area could have a checkpoint more than once a year and officers could not detain an individual for more than three minutes without probable cause. "It only takes a few seconds. It takes no more time then if they were stopped at a red light. If there's nothing wrong and the driver isn't impaired then they can go on their way," says Bustillos.

But criminal defense Attorney Stephen Hamilton says check points focus on the wrong thing. "Our statute in Texas says driving while intoxicated. They've got to prove that they did it while driving. Instead, we should focus our attention on getting intoxicated drivers off the streets by having patrolmen patrol streets looking for drivers while they are driving," says Hamilton.

Both sides of this issue want safe streets. "If we save a life or someone from permanent injury I don't think we can put a price on that," adds Bustillos. "No one, not the state or the defense wants intoxicated drivers out on the roads. Most of us have kids, but we're moving into an area where we're looking at someone who is doing what the law says they can do - have a drink and drive even though not intoxicated," says Hamilton.

Under this bill checkpoints would be set up in counties with a population of 250,000 and large cities with a population of 500,000 or more. The latest census report released two weeks ago estimates 264,418 people live in Lubbock County-- which would make Lubbock eligible for sobriety checks in the county. This bill is now on its way to the house.

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