Weekly County Spotlight - Gaines County
Gaines county constitutes one of the northernmost counties of Region 9’s service area. It is located north of Ector County and is on the Texas/New Mexico border. As of the 2010 census the population was 17,526 making this county more populated than many of the counties served by Region 9. The county seat is Seminole which boasts a population of approximately 6,400. This area is home to a large German-speaking Mennonite population who relocated to Texas from Mexico in the late 1970s.
The Regional Needs Assessment conducted by the Region 9 Prevention Resource Center has indicated that Gaines county has a somewhat high level of alcohol-involved violations including juvenile alcohol violations. The 2017 Regional Needs Assessment data shows that Gaines County had 198 alcohol involved violations including DUI, Drunkenness, and Liquor Law Violations. Liquor Law violations refer to any violation of state or local laws pertaining to the sale, service, or possession of alcohol. Drunkenness refers to being under the influence in public and generally being a nuisance or a threat to the safety of themselves or others around them. The definition of DUI is a little fuzzier, more on that later. Of the 198 alcohol involved violations that occurred in Gaines County in 2016, 28 of them involved minors. That means roughly 14% of all the alcohol involved violations involved minors. That is a pretty high percentage given this county is not heavily populated or urban.
Now, back to DUI. This statistic, provided by the Department of Public Safety, may not be entirely accurate. Why? Because of the legal definition of DUI. If you are like us, the designation between DUI and DWI is arbitrary. To the legal system, it isn’t. DWI, short for Driving While Intoxicated, refers to anyone operating a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) above 0.08. This means both minors (21 and under) and adults can be charged with a DWI. DUI, short for Driving Under the Influence, is a significantly more convoluted construct. Any person can be charged with Driving Under the Influence if they are believed to be impaired to the extent that they pose a harm to themselves or the public. This means that an individual can be arrested for using any substance (i.e., prescription medication, marijuana, etc.) which makes them impaired. This level of impairment is largely at the discretion of the police officer that pulls the individual over. So, what does all of that have to do with the Gaines County DUI statistic? Well, the DPS does not report if these DUIs are all solely from alcohol or if some might be from other substances. It is also important to remember with any crime statistic that charges are dropped and negotiated all of the time. Many lesser charges are dropped in favor of pursuing a more serious charge or in exchange for a guilty plea. Thus, the statistic from Gaines County could be higher or lower than what has been reported.
Ultimately, what is most important is to know your limits. If you don’t know how a substance, including one that has been prescribed to you, affects you, do not operate a motor vehicle or other heavy equipment. In addition, just because the legal limit for DWI is 0.08 does not mean you are safe to operate a vehicle if you are beneath that threshold. Designate a driver, call a friend, call an Uber, or stay home if you plan on drinking, using substances, or taking a medication you haven’t taken before.
PRC Community Liaison