Drivers could pay own DWI tests in Harris County - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Drivers could pay own DWI tests in Harris County

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Convicted drunk drivers in Texas don't always pick up the tab for the cost of their lab work, if their blood is tested, Travis County tax payers do. A county official in Houston says maybe it's time drunk drivers pay.

Driving drunk is a costly crime. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a first time offender pays a total of $17,000.

"That reason is to make people think, make people think twice before they go out and drink," said MADD Spokesperson Angela Tidwell.

The budget executive director for Harris County in Houston is exploring adding onto that amount. He wants to charge convicted drunk drivers for the blood tests that determined their alcohol content.

Angela Tidwell, spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, would support that decision.

"It shouldn't be anything that comes out of my pocket when somebody commits a crime," she said.

Burnet County is the only place in Central Texas where convicted DWI offenders pay. Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo says the fee comes out to $170. The blood draw alone costs $110. Then there's $60 for testing and storage at the DPS lab.

To cover the blood draw fees in cases either thrown out or where the suspects are found not-guilty, Burnet County relies on donations from the public.

Arredondo sees it as if you're responsible for the crime, you're responsible for the damages.

Travis County Attorney David Escamilla says charging convicted drunk drivers would be much harder because there are so many agencies that contract out blood draws and each one is charged a different amount.

The Round Rock Police Department does blood draws through local emergency rooms.

The City of Austin is under contract with Protouch Nurses Incorporated. The cost is $370,000 for three years. According to the contract, APD averaged 1,200 blood draws annually in 2010. Drunk driving arrests have climbed since then.

"It's about taking accountability and responsibility for their actions and that's why we encourage everybody to plan ahead so they're not out of any fees or any money and saving a life by planning ahead and getting a ride home," Tidwell said.

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