Houston appears to be ground zero for a new initiative known as the Trace Protocol which began earlier this month. Spearheaded by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), according to its chief law enforcement officer, it provides local law enforcement agencies with extra investigative tools when officers believe alcohol was a factor in a serious collision.
Police officers can now request assistance from a special task force comprised of members of the Texas Sheriff's Association, officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety and TABC agents. Their joint goal is to determine the source of the alcohol sold to the driver(s) involved in major accidents and whether the sales were legal or if any improprieties occurred. Those might include bartenders who overserved drunk patrons and those who sold alcohol to underage drinkers.
As we discussed in a recent post, both of the latter allegedly occurred earlier this month right here in South Houston. Five bar employees were booked on alcohol sales-related charges after a drunken underage patron reportedly left the drinking establishment and crashed head-on into a car, killing the driver.
Now, thanks to the Trace Protocol, the investigative process is faster and more streamlined due to the additional manpower devoted to the evidence-gathering process. As stated by TABC's chief law enforcement officer, "Prior to this protocol being put in place, it was up to the local TABC office or agent to work the case among their other duties. It might even take some time for the office to be notified. Like most criminal cases, it's important to gather evidence, such as video recordings, and interview witnesses within the first 48 hours."
He added that in the past, the success rate was as low as 10 percent in tracking the alcohol sales' source after a serious crash occurred. Now, they hope to see improved results.
This new initiative could also potentially assist the victims of these accidents as they pursue civil justice for their injuries and damages from auto accidents caused by intoxicated drivers.