Burnet Co. officials launch blood alcohol testing program


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE


Posted on March 27, 2013 at 6:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 27 at 6:21 PM

BURNET, Texas -- United they stood. More than one dozen law enforcement agencies and Burnet County officials issued a stern warning to drivers and lake goers Wednesday.

"Be respectful of the traffic around you and refrain from overusing alcohol," said Texas Game Warden Captain Kevin Davis.

With water levels at Lake Travis significantly below normal, more people are expected to get out and enjoy the water on Lakes Buchanan and LBJ. So starting April 1st, the Burnet Alcohol Task Force or "BAT" will be active.

Anyone who is suspected of drinking while driving or boating will have their blood drawn. The concept is nothing new.

"This is a process that's been going on in this area for over four years, but it had been going on at the hospitals," explained Burnet County Attorney Eduardo Arredondo.

Now there will be a phlebotomists on call 24-hours at the Burnet County Jail.

"Our local hospitals are doing everything they can to help keep the streets safer. The problem is that they have their own emergencies and their own patients and they have their obligations to those people first," said Arredondo.

"What that's gonna do is take our response time, our investigative time from let's say three hours, down to approximately an hour," Davis said.

The result, officials say, is more convictions and safer roads and waterways.

"The longer the time goes by, the greater the chance the evidence we need gets processed by the body and therefore we don't have as strong a case as we should have," Arredondo said.

"Primary thing for us is it's gonna get the officers back on the street faster," said Burnet County Sheriff W. T. Smith.

However, the new program is going to cost. Each blood sample costs $90. Of that, $40 will be paid by the county. The other $50 will come from the arresting agency. An anonymous donor has covered the cost for the law enforcement agencies from now until the end of September 2013. After that, the officials are asking for the public's help.

"It allows us to save our budget monies for enforcement efforts, keeping officers on the street, investigating crimes. We don't have to take money from other things to pay for the blood tests. Budgets are tight," said BAT President Sgt. Barry Greer of the Marble Falls Police Department. 

In some Driving While Intoxicated and Boating While Intoxicated cases, a blood sample can be drawn without a warrant. But in the cases when a warrant is needed, officials say they will be able to obtain one and to do it faster from the jail.