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Palmview Mayor Rick Villarreal received an occupational driver’s license Monday, Dec. 17, three months after a state trooper arrested him on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Hidalgo County Court-at-Law Judge Sergio Valdez spent fewer than 30 seconds considering the request that morning.
“Typically, they’re granted,” Salinas said, referring to requests for occupational driver’s licenses, adding later: “It was pretty standard.”
Ricardo “Rick” Villarreal, 48, of Palmview, an assistant superintendent at the La Joya Independent School District, served two terms on the City Council.
In August, when Mayor Jerry Perez announced he wouldn’t run for a second term, Villarreal filed for the job.
Nobody challenged him.
The victory lap didn’t last long.
At about 10:45 p.m. on Sept. 15, a state trooper stopped Villarreal for speeding on Expressway 83.
After the trooper smelled alcohol on Villarreal’s breath, he admitted to consuming four alcoholic beverages, according to court records. The trooper also found a 12-ounce can of Tecate on the floor behind the driver’s seat.
Villarreal failed a standard field sobriety test and refused to provide a breath sample, which forced the trooper to request a search warrant.
After a mandatory blood draw at Mission Regional Medical Center, the trooper booked Villarreal at the Hidalgo County jail.
Villarreal is charged with driving while intoxicated, a Class B misdemeanor. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,000.
It’s extremely unlikely Villarreal will serve any time in jail. Prosecutors frequently allow defendants faced with first-time drunken driving charges to participate in a pretrial diversion program.
Depending on the circumstances and whether or not the defendant fights the charge, drunken driving cases may take years to wind through the court system.
Refusing the breath test, though, prompted the Texas Department of Public Safety to suspend Villarreal’s license for six months.
The suspension started on Oct. 26, according to court records. Without court intervention, the suspension would expire April 23.
Villarreal filed the petition for an occupational driver’s license on Dec. 6, asking the judge for special permission to drive.
Along with driving for school district business, Villarreal owns rental properties throughout Texas, according to the petition. Managing the properties requires Villarreal to visit Houston, Dallas, Laredo and Austin.
To assuage any concerns about drunken driving, Villarreal hired Ace’s Audio Alarm and Tint, a business owned by Agua Special Utility District board Director Homer Tijerina, to install an “Intoxalock” device on his blue 2007 Toyota Tacoma.
The Intoxalock device requires the driver to provide a breath sample before starting the car, according to the company website. If the device detects alcohol, the car will not start.