The Huntsville Police Department will soon begin a series of task force operations to investigate individuals believed to be under the influence of alcohol and operating a motor vehicle.
The HPD announced Monday that they will conduct the operations in conjunction with the Walker County district attorney’s office, the Department of Public Safety, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission and other local law enforcement agencies.
“During the operations, attorneys with the district attorney’s office will be available to confer with the officers to determine if a search warrant is appropriate should the suspected violator refuse to provide a specimen of their breath,” Police Chief Jean Sanders said. “If a search warrant is issued, the violator will be taken to the ER or alternate location to have their blood drawn and submitted for analysis.”
Walker County Criminal District Attorney David Weeks said the first task force operation would take place sometime within the next month but did not specify an actual date.
“We can’t connect these resources on a regular basis, but this won’t be the last time we do this. We just won’t announce it again,” he said. “Individuals believed to be under the influence of alcohol can choose to provide breath or blood samples, but if they refuse, we’ll go to a judge and get a search warrant for their blood.
“We’ll take their blood without their permission which we will keep as evidence. I’m sure we’ll have motions to suppress, but they won’t make it,” Weeks said.
In order for Weeks to have the amount of warrants required for the operation to be successful, he enlisted the help of County Court-at-Law Judge Barbara Hale.
“Most of the cases will be tried in her court, so she agreed to make herself available to grant search warrants when we present probable cause,” Weeks said. “I expect there is good chance of a lot of warrants with the increased presence we’ll have out that night.
“We’re going to devote as much manpower to this as we can,” he said.
HPD Officer Eric Scott, who organized the operation, said the purpose of the task force was to promote public safety.
“We’re not just out for the college kids. I know it may seem like that since we’re doing this right when school’s starting,” he said. “At the beginning of the semester, the number of people on the road has doubled, and our concern is for the welfare of the entire community.”
Weeks said as many as four assistant district attorneys would be working with him to prepare multiple warrants at a time during the operations.
“Basically, if you’re out that night, you’re going to get caught,” Weeks said. “People won’t learn anything until they get caught.”
Weeks said people needed to understand that under normal circumstances, they do not have the right to refuse to provide a breath or blood sample without facing consequences.
“There are consequences that go along with refusing to provide a breath or blood sample,” he said. “If you refuse under normal circumstances, you get your driver’s license suspended.”
Sanders said the use of designated drivers and alternative means of transportation were recommended when anyone including students and other Walker County residents, consumed alcohol in public.
Sanders said she encouraged participation in the iDrive program, a designated driver incentive program funded through Sam Houston State University.
“If a student or anybody tells a server they’re the designated driver, they receive a wristband and a bright orange cup in which they will only receive non-alcoholic beverages free of charge,” iDrive coordinator Rosanne Keathley said. “We started the program in November and it really kicked off in January.”
For more information, contact HPD at (936) 291-5480.
For more information on the iDrive program, contact Keathley at (936) 294-1171.