Despite coronavirus shutdowns, San Antonio DWI arrests on par with 2019

Bars have also been closed for extended periods due to COVID-19

DWI (Pixabay)

SAN ANTONIO – Extended periods of bar closures and the absence of Fiesta have not slowed down the number of DWI arrests for 2020, according to statistics from the San Antonio Police Department.

In 2019, officers made 2,255 DWI arrests between Jan. 1 and July 6, an SAPD public information officer told KSAT.

This year, they made 2,168 DWI arrests during the same time, a difference of less than 4%.

Some San Antonians may be surprised that the numbers are similar since the city’s largest annual celebration, Fiesta, was postponed this year amid the pandemic. Each April in the Alamo City, Fiesta features dozens of events and widespread celebrations, many of which involve heavy drinking and often lead to a spike in DWI arrests.

Numbers previously reported by SAPD show 204 people were arrested for DWI during Fiesta season in 2019 and 227 people were arrested during Fiesta season in 2018.

In April, KSAT reported that at the start of the pandemic shutdowns, DWI arrests were down for a time. SAPD reported 147 DWI arrests in the 25 days after bars were ordered to close on March 18 compared to 318 DWI-related arrests in the 25 days prior to the order.

More than 5,500 bars, taverns and nightclubs in Texas were closed during the month of April due to concerns over the coronavirus.

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Gov. Greg Abbott tried to assuage that loss of income by allowing alcohol-to-go sales - a decision that could become permanent based on an April 28 Tweet from the governor.

Abbott has previously expressed regret about allowing bars to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic saying, “If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting.”

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As of yet, there is no determining factor that shows why DWI numbers might be higher compared to other years, police said.

“COVID-19 is putting a halt to many things in our life right now, but it will not prevent you from taking a trip to jail if you decide to drink and drive,” SAPD officer Doug Greene told KSAT in April.

According to Texas law, a person is legally intoxicated and may be arrested and charged with DWI with a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. “However, a person is also intoxicated if impaired due to alcohol or other drugs regardless of BAC.”

About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.