How COVID-19 Has Changed DWI Stops

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives. One change we saw this past year was that there were fewer drunk drivers, fewer DWI stops, and fewer DWI and DUI charges across the country.

According to a study by Breathe Easy Insurance, DWI arrests were at their lowest in March and April 2020, when bars and restaurants were shut down. Despite the pandemic and the stay-at-home order, Texas police did not suspend its DWI enforcement efforts across the state.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on DWI stops in Texas. Below, we discuss how the pandemic has reshaped DWI enforcement efforts in the state.

If you were arrested for driving while impaired in Texas, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with our DWI defense attorneys in Denton at the Law Office of Brent D. Bowen, PLLC.

No-Refusal Periods During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A common DWI enforcement policy that did not go anywhere during the COVID-19 pandemic was the so-called “no-refusal periods” in Texas. Under the no-refusal program, if a driver who is suspected of driving while impaired refuses to submit to a blood test, a police officer can electronically get a warrant to perform a blood alcohol testing (BAC) test.

No-refusal periods are not uncommon during weekends and holidays. The DWI enforcement policy is intended to deter impaired driving in Texas. The COVID-19 pandemic had no impact on the frequency of no-refusal periods in Texas. In fact, in some areas, law enforcement designated weekends and holidays “no-refusal” periods more often than usual.

Alcohol To-Go and Texas’ Open Container Law

In 2020, Texas lifted a ban on alcohol to-go pickups from restaurants and bars during the stay-at-home order in the state. As a result, people had an opportunity to buy alcoholic beverages and cocktails from restaurants and bars that were closed during the pandemic.

The problem with takeout liquor is that there is an open alcohol container charge in Texas. Under Texas Penal Code § 49.04, having an open alcohol container can serve as proof of driving while impaired and can become an aggravating factor in your DWI case.

For this reason, if you are planning on driving after buying a to-go alcoholic beverage in Texas, make sure that the beverage is enclosed within a sealed container. Also, it is best not to store any alcohol near the driver or passenger seat to avoid being charged with DWI or open container violation.

DWI Enforcement After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Texas continues to allow restaurants and bars to sell to-go mixed drinks even after the stay-at-home order has been lifted. For this reason, Texas police may use the lack of to-go alcohol bans to step up DWI enforcement and make more DWI stops to deter drunk driving.

As a result, more drivers could end up facing DWI charges, even those who are innocent. If you were arrested for driving while intoxicated in Texas, do not hesitate to contact our Denton DWI defense lawyers at the Law Office of Brent D. Bowen, PLLC, to protect your rights. Our DWI defense attorneys can help you build an effective defense strategy. Call at (940) 222-2488 to discuss your particular case.