DWI cases in San Antonio on the rise with nearly 2,400 arrests to date in 2023

KSAT goes on ride-along with SAPD’s DWI Patrol Unit

SAN ANTONIO – People driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs continue to be a major problem in San Antonio.

According to data from the San Antonio Police Department, DWI arrests have gone up every year over the past three years.

In 2020, there were a total of 3,699 DWI arrests. In 2021, the number grew to 4,289 and last year, there was a total of 4,394 DWI arrests.

A KSAT crew recently got the opportunity to go on a ride along with SAPD’s DWI Patrol Unit. The unit consists of 20-plus officers who patrol the city from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily.

“It happens a lot at night because of open traffic, or it might be wide open highways, general areas and people take advantage of that sometimes,” said SAPD Ofc. Bruce Holson. “The most challenging thing is just being in the right place, the right time, trying to go out there and locate them on the highway.”

During KSAT’s ride along, Holson patrolled the Northwest Side from I-10 to Loop 410. SAPD Ofc. Ricardo Guzman said all officers are trained and certified to conduct DWI arrests and field sobriety tests.

“Your first step is going to be your HGN — Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. That’s going to be the checking of the eyes,” said Guzman. “After that, you conduct your walk-and-turn, which is basically walk nine steps forward heel-to-toe, do a turnaround, do nine steps back heel-to-toe. The last test is going to be your one-leg stance. You will stand on that foot for approximately 30 seconds.”

During KSAT’s time with SAPD’s DWI patrol unit, Holson pulled over six vehicles for traffic violations. The last driver was asked to step out of the vehicle after driving erratically.

“He was failing to maintain the single lane of travel. I saw it several times in this area for a little bit, just to make sure it’s consistent with what I’m looking for,” said Holson. “I did see that he had some bloodshot eyes, which is a good sign of intoxication. He said he was coming from work, but I just wanted to verify and make sure that he wasn’t impaired based on the driving factors that I observed.”

After a field sobriety test, Holson determined the driver was not intoxicated.

“It’s imperative that we say we don’t believe this person is intoxicated, over that legal limit of Texas based on what we can observe doing that horizontal. We’ve cut him a warning, a citation,” said Holson.

Through the first half of 2023, San Antonio police report 2,394 DWI arrests, with 54 coming during the July 4th holiday weekend, from July 1-4.

The total is currently on pace to eclipse last year’s DWI arrests.

“Alcohol makes people think that they’re invincible. They think it’s not going to happen to me. I’ll never get arrested. I won’t get caught until you do or until you crash, and something happens and now it’s too late,” said Guzman.

“We’re not trying to interfere with people’s lives. We’re trying to do our job and do it effectively and correctly. We’re giving every fair opportunity for this person to present everything to us,” said Holson. “That way, we can do our job accordingly and keep people safe on the highways and roadways, keeping them safe and clean.”

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.