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HomeLocal / Area NewsGOVERNOR’S HIGHWAY SAFETY ASSOCIATION RECOGNIZES MONTGOMERY COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY WARREN...

GOVERNOR’S HIGHWAY SAFETY ASSOCIATION RECOGNIZES MONTGOMERY COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY WARREN DIEPRAAM AND THE NO REFUSAL PROGRAM

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a national non-profit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, and the District of Columbia. Amongst its goals is to improve traffic safety, enhance traffic safety program management, and promote best practices. GHSA members are appointed by their governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. The GHSA recognized the “No Refusal Program” and its creator, Montgomery County prosecutor, Warren Diepraam, by awarding the Peter K. O’Rourke Special Achievement Award. It was the first time in several years that the State of Texas has received an award for a traffic safety program. The State of Texas also was given another award for its “Teens in the Driver Seat Program” which was received by Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) Director, Terry Pence.

The No Refusal Program uses police, prosecutors, judges, and medical professionals to obtain search warrants for blood samples from suspected impaired drivers who illegally refuse to provide breath samples after being arrested. Prosecutors and judges work to review probable cause warrants in all DWI arrests that enable law enforcement to acquire blood samples to present solid scientific evidence of guilt or innocence in court.

The No Refusal Program was launched by Montgomery County prosecutor Warren Diepraam who wanted to combat one of the highest breath test refusal rates in the nation and the highest fatality rates in the nation. Diepraam believed that building a strong DWI program will reduce fatalities and reduce the number of breath test refusals. Texas leads the nation in DWI fatalities and this program attacks this problem head on.

After implementing No Refusal weekends in Montgomery County, DWI fatality charges dropped 70% and DWI cases dropped approximately 30%. The DWI breath test refusal rate dropped from the statewide average of 45% to approximately 25%. Additionally, Boating While Intoxicated fatalities have not occurred on Lake Conroe since the implementation of No Refusal. As a result, the Texas Parks and Wildlife has dropped Lake Conroe from its unofficial list of “Texas’ Deadliest Lakes.” Other jurisdictions implementing the program have reported similar results.

Diepraam has trained thousands of people including police, prosecutors, judges, victim’s advocates and others on the program. With Diepraam’s assistance, the program has expanded to approximately 50 Texas counties and several other states including Louisiana, Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, and Florida. The US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have recognized the program as a best practice. Diepraam assisted NHTSA in creating a template on its website for other jurisdictions to implement the program. Through funding provided by the TXDOT, the program has expanded to cover most weekends and heavy DWI fatality holidays in Montgomery County such as New Year’s Eve, Halloween, and July 4th. The program has been challenged by some defense lawyers, but has been found to be an efficient and appropriate law enforcement tool to combat DWI fatalities starting with US Supreme Court and Texas appellate court decisions.

Diepraam states that while the No Refusal has saved lives in the county and reduced refusals, that “it is the dedication of the prosecutors, police officers working DWIs, the judges who volunteer to review warrants for probable cause, and the District Attorney’s policy of focusing on the most dangerous repeat offenders that has resulted in the 70% drop in fatal crash DWI charges.” The District Attorney, Brett Ligon, states that “there are people alive today in this county because of the program and that he is proud to implement a program that has made Montgomery County a safer place for its residents.”

For information:

http://www.ghsa.org/html/meetings/annual/2011/photos.html

http://www.ghsa.org/html/media/pressreleases/2011/20110927_awards.html

http://www.ghsa.org/html/meetings/awards/11norefusal.html

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WARREN DIEPRAAM/

CREATOR OF NO REFUSAL PROGRAM

 

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TERRY PENCE

TEENS IN THE DRIVER SEAT

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