Should Bexar County's "no refusal" policy to combat drunk driving be enforced every day?
SAN ANTONIO -- We've all heard it before -- "Drink, drive, go to jail." But in Bexar County, you'll be forced to do more than that, even if it means giving up your blood.
Yet some argue the county's "no refusal" policy is a violation of your rights. Is it?
San Antonio police say they're simply cracking down, looking for those driving under the influence.
"These DWIs that are driving the highways and the surface streets -- they're causing more loss of life and property damage than all of the other crimes put together," said Officer Anthony Bancroft, who's been on the force for 15 years.
KENS 5 hit the streets with Bancroft. He's just one of hundreds of patrol officers now enforcing Bexar County's "no refusal" weekend policy, which has been in effect since Jan. 1.
He claims it's been highly effective. Within a matter of hours, we watched Bancroft pull over several drivers. Some couldn't even walk a straight line.
"If you can't control your body's physical movements, how are you supposed to control a motor vehicle?" Bancroft asked.
One suspect's breathalyzer reading showed his blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit. But in the past, if he had refused to take the breath test, police had limited options.
"If you're going to roll in the dirt, you're going to get dirty. Don't be driving out here after you've been drinking," Bancroft warned. "The mental capacity has degraded. They're not thinking that they're intoxicated -- 'I can make it home, I'm almost there.'"
Now, if you're pulled over and refuse a breathalyzer test, within a short amount of time you'll be brought before a judge who can then order a blood test and find out just how much you've had to drink.
"Everything we're saying and doing is really designed for a purpose," Bancroft said. That purpose is to reverse a disturbing trend.
Since 2008, the number of drunk-driving fatalities has steadily increased. Last year alone, San Antonio police made more than 5,700 DWI arrests. And as we saw, the arrests continue in 2011.
Not everyone agrees with the new rules. Criminal defense attorney Jamie Balagia handles several hundred DWI cases a year. He says the "no refusal" policy is a violation of your civil liberties.
"I think it's an affront to the Constitution. I think it's an affront to our community," Balagia said. "They're not making their cases because they're doing poor investigations, so they are basically going around the statute and getting search warrants signed by a magistrate that is paid by them. I have a problem with that."
He says the policy also violates your right to an attorney and your right to refuse to produce evidence against yourself.
"Then if you ask them for an attorney, or to call your attorney, they say you can't," Balagia said. "Then they take you down to the station and take your blood. But they just told you you don't have to give evidence against yourself."
Bancroft sees it differently.
"I don't think that you should have the ability to escape justice," he said. "The easier solution is don't drink and drive, and you'll be a much better person."
Bexar County authorities even hope to expand the policy to include weekdays as well.
"If we could reduce the number of DWIs out here, this city would be much safer," Bancroft said.