Resurgence Of Bars And Cars Program Hopes To Crackdown On DWIs
by: Pat Hernandez, December 3, 2012 4:12:00 am
Last week, a bartender from the Woodlands was arrested and jailed for allegedly serving liquor to a man so drunk, he could barely stand on his own.
Former Harris County prosecutor Warren Diepraam is chief vehicular crimes prosecutor in Montgomery County north of Houston. He says says their undercover "Bars and Cars" task force was adopted this year to curb a resurgence of intoxication manslaughter in the county where the rate exceeds Harris County.
"Montgomery County is number 1 in the state when it comes to traffic fatalities, and Harris County is number 2. We're a smaller county of course, but our death rate is double, and that's sad. We have to stay on top of things to make sure that we can save lives."
Recent high profile traffic fatalities were directly attributable to over-serving in south Montgomery County. He says the crackdown is not just on patrons, but those who continue to serve them alcohol.
"There is an existing law in the book in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code that makes it a Class-A misdemeanor to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person, whether you're a bartender, a waitress, waiter, or a shopkeeper. The law creates an affirmative duty on servers, to make sure that the person is not intoxicated. And if they're negligent in failing to do that, as in this case, it's a class-A offense."
Liquor licenses hold establishments to strict requirements when it comes to intoxicated patrons. Lt. Ryan DeCuire with the TABC says the person that is found to have served them or sold them alcohol can face criminal charges, not only in Montgomery County, but anywhere in Texas.
"Just like a driver's license through a state agency, that license is subject to a fine, suspension or cancellation. And that's where we play a big role, is we regulate those licenses, and enact the fine, suspension, cancellation procedures on the license or permit."
The institution of programs like Bars and Cars in Montgomery County and the statewide No Refusal program mean an increase in law enforcement activity on the streets. Sgt John Sampa with the Texas Department of Public Safety says driving under the influence will not be tolerated.
"The state troopers around the state will be again working with all the local agencies to assist them in making the roadways safe, that's either through car crash investigations, traffic safety, DWI arrests, [or] anything that pertains to making the roadways safe. The state troopers will be out assisting those agencies in that."