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Editor’s note: On Sept. 12, 2019 — after this news article was written but before the print issue of the Progress Times appeared on newsstands — the drunken driving case against Palmview Mayor Rick Villarreal was filed in Hidalgo County Court at Law #7.
Nearly a year after his arrest, the drunken driving charge against Palmview Mayor Rick Villarreal remains in limbo.
A state trooper arrested Ricardo “Rick” Villarreal, 49, of Palmview on Sept. 15, 2018. Nearly a year later, however, prosecutors haven’t taken case to court.
When the state trooper stopped Villarreal for speeding at about 10:45 p.m. on Sept. 15, 2018, the trooper “observed signs of possible impairment,” according to the criminal complaint.
Villarreal performed a standard field sobriety test but refused to provide a breath sample. After the trooper requested a warrant, Villarreal provided a blood sample at Mission Regional Medical Center.
Attorney Rick Salinas of Mission, who represented Villarreal after the arrest, said he didn’t know why the District Attorney’s Office requested a toxicology report.
Prosecutors need to know the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration, Salinas said, adding that it’s difficult to proceed without it.
A motorist with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 may be charged with driving while intoxicated, a Class B misdemeanor. The charge becomes a Class A misdemeanor if the blood alcohol concentration is 0.15 or higher.
A complete toxicology report may reveal if Villarreal had ingested other substances, including prescription medications and illegal drugs.
“I don’t know why they would have asked for toxicology reports,” Salinas said. “That’s not something that we typically see.”
Salinas said he hadn’t been informed about the request for a full toxicology report.
“All I can tell you is that if they come back with anything other than alcohol, I’m going to say they need to throw that (expletive) out,” Salinas said, adding later: “Why are you searching for anything else? Where did they get the probable cause to do that?”
The District Attorney’s Office normally accepts or declines prosecution of drunken driving cases within a few months of the arrest.
Hours after the state trooper arrested Villarreal, a state trooper arrested Bianca Martinez, 23, of McAllen on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
The District Attorney’s Office accepted the case, which was filed in Hidalgo County Court at Law #2 on Sept. 19 — just three days after her arrest.
Martinez pleaded guilty in February and a judge placed her on community supervision for 180 days.
Another person arrested that day, 38-year-old Olivero Cantu Alaniz of Edinburg, had a driving while intoxicated charge filed against him in Hidalgo County Court at Law #4 on Nov. 5. The case against Alaniz remains pending.
Under normal circumstances, prosecutors don’t request a full toxicology report on a blood sample from a drunken driving arrest, said former Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra. The District Attorney’s Office might request a toxicology report if the initial test didn’t show any alcohol or if someone suggests that prescription medication contributed to the appearance of intoxication, among other reasons.
“That’s not normal,” Guerra said, adding that he didn’t understand why the case had remained pending for nearly a year. “I think the DA’s Office should have filed the case a long time ago.”
This article originally appeared in the Friday Sept. 13, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.