Tyler Dunman, Chief Prosecutor of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Vehicular Crimes Division, stood in front of a hearse Tuesday to emphasize the consequences of driving while intoxicated, as he and other officials announced the start of the 2014 holiday season’s “No Refusal” initiative.
Members of the District Attorney’s Office, 15 law enforcement agencies that patrol Montgomery County, and representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving presented a united front as they spoke with reporters standing in front of a local funeral home.
Dunman said the initiative begins Wednesday and continues until January 4, 2015.
“We’re entering a period of having no refusal, round the clock, and that means if a person is arrested for driving while intoxicated in Montgomery County and they refuse to give a sample of their breath or blood, we will seek the assistance of prosecutors who are working, nurses, and judges who are on call to get a search warrant for their blood,” he said. “Our goal is to have a blood sample in each case we work from now until early January.”
Dunman said a mobilized system would be in place for anyone arrested for driving while intoxicated and participating agencies will increase their patrols during the no refusal period.
“Their goal is simple,” he said, “to arrest and get off the streets any intoxicated driver they find, and they’re going to look for them.”
Dunman said officials want people to visit Montgomery County and enjoy all that is offered, but also take responsibility for their decisions and plan ahead so they don’t get on the streets and drive drunk. He said the well-known “BAT van” will be mobile at different times and the DA’s DART van will be out and about, complete with a nurse onboard for blood draws after search warrants are signed on location.
“We’re hoping people make a good decision,” Dunman said. “What we’ve learned here in Montgomery County is that 50 percent of fatal crashes involve an intoxicated driver, and in 50 percent of those, the intoxicated driver kills themselves.”
“The message is quite clear,” he said. “Frankly if you get arrested for driving while intoxicated in Montgomery County, you should consider yourself lucky, because the alternative to being arrested is to find yourself in this vehicle (gesturing toward the hearse).”
“You don’t want to be showing up at a funeral home like we are today, because someone you know is killed by a drunk driver, or someone you know killed themselves because they chose to make a poor decision,” Dunman said.
The veteran prosecutor said he was very grateful for all the agencies represented, who came from all over Montgomery County to show their solidarity, and said they were all sending a clear message.
“We’re going to be out looking for you if you decide to drive intoxicated,” Dunman said. “We’re going to get the evidence we need, despite your cooperation and we’re going to prosecute you to the fullest extent.”
DPS Trooper Richard Standifer said it was a pleasure to be invited to participate in the effort to curb the problem of drinking and driving.”
“One of most unsettling task we at DPS have to do is to advise a loved one that their significant other or family member was involved in a crash,” Standifer said. “To try and curb that, we are going to be participating full speed, zero tolerance, trying to arrest and seek out the intoxicated drivers of the upcoming holiday.”
Standifer said in 2013, DPS arrested 387 drunk drivers, wrote over 6,000 speeding tickets, over 700 tickets for those wearing no seatbelt, and over 800 to uninsured drivers.
“Also be mindful driving drowsy is just as bad as driving drunk, and driving distracted is just as bad as driving drunk as well,” he said. “We advocate first and foremost, don’t drink and drive, buckle up, and be safe; Try to slow down, especially in bad weather and during construction periods; Try to limit your distractions inside the vehicle, and if at all possible, pull over to the side of the road to make that phone call or answer that text. Don’t get fatigued to the point where you can’t drive.”
Sheriff Tommy Gage spoke briefly, saying, “As you can see, in Montgomery County we stand together in law enforcement against driving while intoxicated. Our message is real simple – if you drink, don’t drive. You not only will save the life of someone else, you’ll save your own.”
MADD volunteer Will Wamble said he was honored to be there and thanked the agencies for participating. He said the primary function of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is serve victims of intoxicated drivers.
“In 2014, 2,649 victims were served by MADD.” Wamble said. “Here’s the one thing MADD knows – Driving While Intoxicated does not discriminate. It doesn’t care what socioeconomic status you are. It doesn’t care if you’re black, white, purple or green, or what religion you are. It cuts across all boundaries.”
“As we enter into the holiday season, many families and friends are going to gather around the table to take time and reflect,” he said. “MADD is proud to stand with District Attorney’s Office and all the law enforcement agencies you see here today, to make sure that no chair around that table is empty as a result of the effects of driving while intoxicated.”