|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - June 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
No refusals, plenty of excuses during DWI crackdown
Polk County Enterprise
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — Law enforcement officers hauled eight people to the Polk County jail for driving or boating while intoxicated during the third annual Memorial Day No Refusal weekend, and managed to avert any serious crashes on area highways. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office tripled its presence on highways throughout the weekend and were joined by increased patrols by the Texas Department of Public Safety, Livingston and Onalaska police department and constables offices. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department assigned 10 game wardens to the southern portion of Lake Livingston, according to Capt. Shawn Phillips. Those stepped-up water patrols resulted in three arrests for boating while intoxicated, jail records show. Patrol officers from all area agencies filed five cases of driving while intoxicated during the weekend. A mobile command post was set up at the Polk County jail and any driver who failed a field sobriety test and refused to submit to a breath test was subject to an immediate search warrant for a blood sample. District Judges Elizabeth Coker and Robert Hill Trapp and County Court at Law Judge Stephen Phillips were available around the clock through the weekend to rule on petitions for search warrants prepared by prosecutors with the Polk County District Attorney’s Office. Refusals had been eliminated but excuses were plentiful while officers logged dozens of traffic stops each. During a media ride-along Saturday with Deputy Craig Taylor, motorists provided a wide range of excuses for various infractions. “I’m sorry, I’ve just been to the store and I’ve got to get home and put up these groceries,” one driver told Taylor after radar indicated he was speeding. The man added that he was a school bus driver and any citation would cause him to lose his job. Taylor issued a written warning. An Austin resident who was clocked at 75 mph in a 65 mile per zone said he may have been over the limit because “speed limits keep changing.” The maximum speed on any Texas highway after dark is 65. Later, Onalaska Police Officer Troy Binford witnessed a motorist on U.S. 190 at FM 3186 hit a mailbox. During an ensuing traffic stop, the driver claimed not to understand instructions from OPD and PCSO officers given in English — including advice that he was standing in ants. A second car with occupants claiming to be family members drove up moments later. When officers asked if the man could speak English, several children in the car shouted, “Yes.” Communications improved when a Spanish-speaking OPD reserve officer arrived. The driver was arrested for criminal mischief, no driver’s license. Immigration Control Enforcement officers are also investigation his immigration status. Just after midnight, Taylor spotted a pickup with no tail lights. As the deputy initiated the traffic stop, the drive rode the brake, attempting to mask the defective equipment. Taylor found six out of six clues during a horizontal gaze test that indicate a driver might be intoxicated. The driver admitted drinking a few beers at a barbecue earlier in the day, but had stopped drinking at least an hour and a half before the traffic stop. Taylor reminded the driver that he had stopped the man before for defective equipment, no driver’s license and no insurance. “I thought you looked familiar,” the man said. He was able to pass other components of the field sobreity test, but was arrested for no driver’s license and cited for other infractions. This weekend officers also made adjustments to patrols in light of recent changes to operating hours for a couple of area nightclubs. Despite the expanded options for late-night partyers, business was booming for one Onalaska nightclub. When the 2 a.m. closing time arrived, officers observed customers in the parking lot and gave out some last minute advice to think twice before getting behind the wheel. A passenger van had been parked on a side street near the nightclub for several hours and it began to move just as Taylor passed. The van had only moved a few feet when Taylor stopped it and a second vehicle. The van driver immediately became contrite, saying she had a designated driver and pointed to the second vehicle. Taylor explained that a designated driver needed to be in the same vehicle and began a field sobriety test. Backup officers spoke to the “designated driver” who volunteered that she was not drinking at all since she was expecting a child. After a computer check of the drivers showed no outstanding offenses, the occupants of the van were allowed to leave with the “designated driver.” As area nightclubs were beginning to empty, deputies also responded to a call of a large fight involving about 20 people in a rural area near the lake. Upon arrival, officers were told that the group of people were filming a movie and any signs of disturbance were only an act.