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“Second-Chance” Law Will Give Some Texas Dui Defendants A Break


Under the new “Second Chance” law, recent signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas DUI defendants would be allowed to have their criminal record sealed from public view – even if it happened many years ago.

House Bill 3016 is applicable to Class C misdemeanors charged for driving while intoxicated with a blood-alcohol concentration below 0.15. Those convicted of crimes of a violent or sexual nature would not be eligible for a reprieve under the statute.

The law will allow first-time DUI offenders who successfully completed a six-month stretch with ignition interlocks (as well as a number of other conditions) to apply for non-disclosure. That means the DWI charge will be removed from their record, making it easier for them to land employment, obtain housing and secure certain types of loans.

The provision will only be available to those who don’t cause any injury or property damages as a result of their actions. If an offender is not ordered to install an interlock or refuses to install the device, he or she must wait a full five years before becoming eligible for non-disclosure.

The law is an expansion of a similar measure from two years ago and was applicable to non-sexually-motivated Class A and Class B misdemeanors.

MADD Supports New Law

Interestingly, MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving – is in favor of the new law, even though it means certain convicted drunk drivers will essentially be able to wipe their records clean. The reason for the support has to do with the fact that it compels and incentivizes drivers to install and successfully use ignition interlock devices.

Texas is one of many states where a DWI offender can plead down a charge in order to sidestep the interlock ignition requirement. This law would give offenders an opportunity to walk away without a criminal record if they agree to use ignition interlocks.

Texas Transportation Code 521.246 stipulates that if a person’s license is suspended after a conviction for DWI, the judge is required to restrict the person to operation of a motor vehicle that is equipped with ignition interlock devices.

MADD reports ignition interlock devices have halted some 245,000 drunk driving attempts just in the state since 2006. Expanding this even further, they assert, will help save more lives.

Order of Non-Disclosure in Texas

In Texas, having a record expunged is only possible with a pardon. However, an order of non-disclosure (i.e., sealing a record) is possible only in some cases. Those circumstances include:

  • Placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for the offense in question;
  • Successful completion of deferred adjudication;
  • Offense must be eligible for non-disclosure (offenses are broad, but in general, serious, violent felonies and sexually-motivated offenses are not eligible);
  • No Disqualifying criminal history.

This new law provides an opportunity for a non-disclosure filing within six months, and it presents an opportunity for those who have already been convicted, as the provision applies retroactively.

Our experienced DWI defense lawyers in Houston can help you formulate a smart strategy to hopefully avoid conviction in the first place. In cases where that is not possible, we work to help you minimize the impact to your life. This law will be one more way in which we can work to help you diminish the long-term impact to your life.

New Texas DUI Blood Draw Law Could Challenge Houston Defense Attorneys


Texas will soon be seeing some changes in their warrant system. A new set of regulations designed to hasten the process of obtaining warrants for blood draws in DUI cases in on its way. The new technology is expected to alter the way drunk driving traffic stops operate in the Lone Star State.

According to, the technology was developed by Law Enforcement Advanced DWI/ DUI Reporting System (LEADRS), who are in the process of training municipal court judges in several Texas counties how to use the technology. Ordinarily, a DUI/DWI stop can take hours, but with technology that will allow an officer to send a blood warrant directly to a judge, who can review, sign and send the warrant back electronically. This eliminates the need for a sit-down warrant to be issued, which can make the process excruciatingly slow.

The feature is necessitated by the outcome in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Missouri v. McNeely. The question raised in that case was whether the natural dissipation of alcohol in one’s blood stream constitutes an exigency in every case sufficient to justify initiation of a blood test absent a warrant. Justices ruled it does not. That means if you do not consent to a blood draw when stopped for a DUI, police must first obtain a warrant to do so.

Failure to obtain a warrant for this purpose, as our Houston DUI defense attorneys can explain, can mean the results of that blood draw could be suppressed in court. If the court does suppress it, it may not be used against you to prove guilt.

Proponents of the LEADRS system say it serves to make the process of obtaining that warrant more streamlined. Rest assured our defense lawyers will be watching these procedural issues closely for any potential violation of a defendant’s rights.

One sergeant from the Leander Police Department (half hour outside of Austin) was quoted as saying a typical DWI traffic stop from beginning to end can take anywhere from four to six hours. That process involves finding a judge who must physically sign the warrant. This can take over an hour on its own.

In counties that do not have a magistrate available around-the-clock (some have offices in the local jail). In these situations, officers must drive to the judge’s house or else meet them somewhere to sign the warrant. All of this must happen prior to the suspect being transported to a local hospital to have the blood-alcohol test. In that frame of time, of course, a defendant’s blood-alcohol concentration level can drop. The pace at which one metabolizes alcohol can depend on a myriad of factors, including the individual’s size, tolerance, diet and personal body chemistry.

The new LEADRS system will allow officers to remain at the scene of the DWI traffic stop, where they can forward the warrant for a blood test directly to the judge electronically. The judge can review it, add their signature and then return it electronically to the officer at the scene.

This, officials say, will help authorities obtain a blood-alcohol reading that is more accurate to the time of driving, which they say in turn will make for a more effective prosecution.

While it’s certainly convenient, our defense lawyers see plenty of room for defendant rights to be sidestepped. For example, when an officer is standing directly before a judge, there is an opportunity for the judge to ask questions and seek further explanation. That does not exist with an electronic version. There is also concern judges may not pay proper attention to detail with electronic warrants.

The system is being tested as a pilot program in Leander and Liberty Hill. If it is deemed successful, it could be made available to all magistrates throughout Texas.

DWI cases can be extremely complicated, and the emergence of new technology to “streamline” the process can sometimes make it more complicated. If you or a loved one has been involved in a DWI incident, you need and deserve representation. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We can help.

Can DUIs in Houston, TX Be Prevented by Ignition Interlock Devices?


Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a strong advocate of mandatory ignition interlock devices for all motorists. According to MADD, every state has some type of ignition interlock device, but only 28 states require ignition interlock devices after every conviction for impaired driving. In an effort to bolster its argument, MADD commissioned a study to determine how many drunk driving attempts were thwarted by the use of ignition interlock device.

Texas DUI AttorneyAccording to The Houston Chronicle, more than 27,000 attempts to drive drunk in Texas were prevented by the use of ignition interlock devices. Texas is already one of the states with strong ignition interlock device laws, as the law was changed in 2015 to allow judges to order the use of an ignition interlock device for all convicted offenders.

MADD’s new information is likely to reinforce the idea that widespread IID use is effective at stopping people from driving drunk. This means any motorist who is accused of drunk driving in Texas could potentially face the cost, hassle, and embarrassment of having to use an ignition interlock device. If you do not want to have such a device on your car, you’ll need to aggressively fight to avoid conviction if you are charged with a drunk driving offense. An attorney can help.

How Ignition Interlock Devices Affect Your Life 

Ignition interlock devices could potentially be required to be installed in any vehicle which a person convicted of DUI drives on a regular basis. The DUI offender must pay for the installation of these devices and for ongoing costs associated with them. The device requires the driver to blow into the device before starting the car to determine if his blood alcohol concentration is above the allowable limit. Because the car will not start until the device measures a motorist’s BAC, any person who uses the car with an ignition interlock device is going to have to blow into it.

When MADD’s report indicates 27,000 attempts to drive drunk were stopped, the report means there were 27,000 situations in which someone blew into an installed ignition interlock device and the BAC reading was too high so the car wouldn’t start driving. MADD’s report also looked at thwarted drunk driving attempts in other states and discovered an estimated 2.3 million attempts at drunk driving were stopped because of these devices.

States, including Texas, pass strict laws in their efforts to stop impaired motorists from operating vehicles. If ignition interlock devices are effective at preventing motorists from operating a vehicle while impaired, as this recent research suggests, lawmakers will continue to ensure DUI penalties can include installation of ignition interlock devices in as many situations as possible following conviction.

There may be no way to avoid an IID if you are convicted of DUI in Texas. It’s imperative for those accused of drunk driving to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

DUI Risks During Houston Spring Break


Texas criminal defense attorneyVisit Houston Texas has released a list of reasons why a spring break trip to the area is a good idea. The Azalea Trail, Pleasure Pier and the Houston Rodeo are among the attractions touted on their list.

While these may not be traditional spring break activities for college kids, some young people do visit Houston during spring break. Many come to Houston because their families and friends live locally and they want to catch up. Some college students stay in Houston because that’s where their permanent residence is. Others may not have the funds or desire to go to another destination for spring break.

Regardless of why college students find themselves in Houston for spring break, many have one thing in common: they will be enjoying the bars and nightlife Houston has to offer. Spring break is traditionally a time when college students enjoy imbibing, and the young people in Houston are no exception. While there is nothing wrong at all with adults of age having a few drinks to celebrate their vacation, one thing to keep in mind is that there is also a markedly higher increase in DUI arrests during spring break.

Impaired Driving Can Lead to Arrest

The chances of a DUI during spring break are significant if you drink alcohol before you drive. Local law enforcement officials are fully aware that spring break brings rowdy vacationers, and police tend to be more on the lookout for possible signs of impaired driving during this time.

If you are arrested for impaired driving, you need to be smart about your next steps. First and foremost, this means calling an attorney for help. It is always important for young people to get proper legal assistance because their whole lives are in front of them. Having a DUI on your permanent record could make it difficult for you to get a job or get into grad school. For some serious offenses related to drugged or drunk driving, there is also the possibility for felony charges, which could result in loss of eligibility for financial aid under certain circumstances.

Your attorney can help you to respond to the accusations against you, with the goal of reducing the charges or avoiding conviction entirely. Sometimes fighting the DUI is the best approach to cope with accusations of wrongdoing if you believe acquittal is possible. Your attorney can also help you to explore plea deals and other ways to reduce possible charges and consequences.

Responding to charges can become especially difficult if you were visiting Houston for spring break and got arrested for drunk driving in Houston while living elsewhere. You likely will need to return to Houston from your home state to face criminal proceedings for DUI and a license suspension in Houston will follow you to your permanent residence.

An attorney can help you to respond with the minimum of return trips back to Houston. Your attorney’s overall goal is to help you to get the best final outcome in a situation with many bad possibilities.

Will DWI Charges End Your Career as a Professional Driver in Texas?


Texas criminal defense attorneyCommercial drivers are subject to strict rules when it comes to alcohol impairment. Because the consequences of drunk driving could be severe if a motorist is operating a commercial truck while impaired, both state law and federal law are very strict about the impact of a DWI conviction on a commercial driver.

If you are accused of driving while impaired, you must understand the possible impact that a conviction could have on your continued ability to work in your chosen profession.  Getting a commercial license is hard work, but is worth it because you should be able to earn a good living as a truck driver or driver of passenger vehicles. You don’t want this opportunity taken from you because of a DWI conviction, so you should consult with an experienced attorney and vigorously defend yourself from charges if you are accused of wrongdoing.

If you have a commercial driver’s license, you should know there are a variety of different behaviors which could result in the imposition of penalties and which could lead to the suspension of your professional license. You should also be aware that even if your license is returned to you after a period of suspension, you may find it harder to get hired because trucking companies are reluctant to take a chance on someone with a DWI on their record.

Commercial drivers can face the consequences of a DWI charge not only for using alcohol, but also for using drugs or other impairing substances. You do not have to have a .08 Blood Alcohol Concentration to face consequences either. Commercial drivers in commercial vehicles can be in legal trouble if their BAC is .04 or higher.

Plus, whether you are in your own car or in a commercial vehicle,  Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Section 383.51 indicates that your commercial license can be suspended for a one year period if you are simply convicted of refusing to take a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test when there is probable cause you were impaired by alcohol.

For some actions, like driving impaired while transporting hazardous material, a first time offense can result in a lengthy license suspension, with the loss of your commercial license for three years.  In other cases, you could actually have your license taken away permanently, such as when you are convicted of a second refusal to take a BAC test or when you are convicted of a second DWI.

Federal laws are clear that there are no exceptions to these suspensions for a conviction. To be able to keep your license, that means you will have to successfully fight against being found guilty. You should talk with a DWI defense lawyer as soon as you can when you’ve been arrested or are under investigation so your attorney can start right away with helping you respond to charges and earn a dismissal or acquittal.

Do Ignition Interlock Devices Work to Stop Houston DUIs?


Texas DUI AttorneyIgnition interlock devices may be required for certain individuals who are convicted of driving while impaired by drugs. Texas Transportation Code section 521.246 establishes the rules regarding the use of ignition interlock devices. The devices are mandated for repeat offenders with multiple drunk driving convictions, as well as for certain convicted offenders who have a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

The costs of an ignition interlock device (IID) must be paid by the convicted defendant and the costs can often be quite substantial. The use of IIDs can be a big hassle for convicted defendants, especially as routine recalibration of the devices is typically required.

There has been a dedicated effort to greatly expand the use of ignition interlock devices across the United States, and today most states require at least some convicted DUI defendants to install IIDs in their vehicles.  There are even some advocacy groups who argue that every DUI defendant who is convicted should be required to get an Ignition Interlock Device.

However, even as the use of these devices expands, there are serious questions about whether they actually have an impact in prevention of drunk driving.

Ignition interlock devices make it difficult or impossible for someone to drive drunk during the time while the device is installed in a vehicle. The devices incorporate a breathalyzing test inside of the vehicle. The driver must blow into the breathalyzer test and have his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tested before the car will start. Periodic retesting may occur as the motorist is driving.

Because the car cannot start when the driver is drunk, unless a sober person blows into the device for him, the devices generally do tend to prevent or at least reduce drunk driving rates during the time the devices are installed inside of a person’s vehicle.  However, this seems to be the extent of the benefit.

The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability examined re-arrest rates in order to determine whether or not ignition interlock devices had long-term benefits of reducing the number of repeat DUI offenders. The research revealed that while rearrest rates did drop during the time the ignition interlock devices were actively being used on the vehicles, the recidivism rates returned to normal following the removal of the devices.

This result strongly suggests no actual change in attitude or behavior happens because of the installation of ignition interlock devices. The devices only serve as an additional cost and penalty for a defendant, and do not have a net positive impact on reducing drunk driving rates over the long-term.

If you are arrested for impaired driving, you should talk with an attorney to find out what your options are for trying to avoid a conviction and avoid the required use of ignition interlock devices on your vehicles. 

What is the Financial Impact of DWI Conviction in Texas?


Much higher than you might expect, a Texas DWI defense lawyer explains

Texas criminal defense attorneyBeing arrested, charged and convicted of drunk driving in Texas can completely change your life. You might lose your driver’s license for several weeks or months. You might have to install an ignition interlock device. You might even have to serve jail time.

And then there’s the cost. Some people only take into account any fines they have to pay for their driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction in Texas. But that’s often only a fraction of the true financial impact of many DWI convictions.

“Many people are surprised by how expensive a drunk driving conviction in Texas can be,” Texas DWI lawyer Joseph LaBella said. “That’s why we always encourage people to contact us as soon as possible if they have been charged with drunk driving.”

Estimated cost of DWI conviction

The financial impact of every DWI conviction is different. That’s because every case is unique. But the bottom line is most convictions cost people thousands of dollars over the course of their lifetime.

In 2006, the Texas Department of Transportation conducted a survey estimating the total cost of a DWI arrest and conviction for a first-time offender, according to an article posted on The article estimated that a first-time conviction with no accident can cost anywhere from $9,000 to $24,000. The same article also states that the Texas Safety Network estimates that a DWI can cost almost $8,000.

“I never would have thought I would have gotten a DUI and I had no idea how much it cost. I’m your quintessential good girl, too. I didn’t have that much to drink either, just enough to put me over the limit,” a woman named Kate said in the article. “It’s a real financial burden.”

Itemized breakdown of a DWI conviction

So why does a DWI conviction cost so much? Estimates include some of the following items:

  • Fines (up to $2,000 for 1st conviction)
  • Court costs
  • Bail
  • Car towing
  • Car impounding
  • Cost of incarceration (up to 3 months in jail for 1st conviction)
  • DWI school
  • Driver’s license reinstatement fee ($3,000 in many cases)
  • Loss of job (in certain circumstances)
  • Loss of income (in certain circumstances)
  • Purchase or rental of car ignition interlock device
  • Installation of car ignition interlock device
  • Monthly fees for car ignition interlock device
  • Increased auto insurance premiums
  • Attorneys’ fees

In addition, it’s important to note that such estimates are based on the following circumstances:

  • It’s your 1st DWI arrest.
  • You did not cause a car accident.
  • You did not injure anyone.

If you caused an accident and someone else was hurt, the financial impact of your DWI car accident could be significantly higher, especially if someone was killed in an auto accident you allegedly caused. If you accidently killed someone in a DWI accident, you could be charged with intoxication manslaughter. The penalty is up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Why hiring an attorney matters

Faced with such serious consequences, it’s important for people arrested and charged with DWI to contact a lawyer right away. That’s why we always urge people to call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You have too much to lose. Don’t wait to take strong legal action. Get the legal advice you need now to make things right. Contact us now.

Our firm, Joseph LaBella & Associates, handles driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases throughout Texas. If you or loved one has been charged with DWI, contact our law firm and schedule an appointment today. Call 1-800-395-5951 right now.

What are the Drugged Driving Risks and Consequences for Houston Drivers?


Texas criminal defense attorneyRecently, USA Today sounded the alarm about an apparent troubling link between drugged driving and deadly car accidents. However, a closer look at the research suggests that it may not be that clear cut that drugged driving is actually causing a big increase in car accidents. While more research needs to be done, it is likely that states which are refining their drugged driving laws in light of increasing permissiveness to marijuana may take this data into account and impose harsher drugged driving consequences.

It is important to have accurate data to truly understand drugged driving risks and consequences so motorists can make safe choices. This means getting the real story on how dangerous drugged driving is and making sure that any penalties or consequences for driving under the influence of drugs actually fits the crime.

Motorists should never do anything that puts themselves or others in any type of danger, and they need accurate information so they can protect themselves and other motorists on the road. Those who are accused of a crime should also be treated fairly within the criminal justice system, and should have a lawyer to make certain that their rights are respected.

USA Today issued the warning about drugged driving risks by citing data on car crashes in 2015. According to the data, which comes from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a total of 21 percent of fatal crashes within the United States in 2015 involved at least one driver who was found to have drugs in his system when he was tested following the auto accident. In 2005, by contrast, around 12 percent of drivers tested following fatal auto accidents were found to have drugs in their system.

This is really bad news and it suggests the consequences of drugged driving could suggest a substantial increase in the risk of a deadly accident. However, you also need to consider whether the problem is as severe as this data initially appears. One issue is the data seems to suggest the drugs in the driver’s system played a role in causing the crash. While this may be true, it is unclear to what extent certain drugs actually cause serious impairment among drivers.

Researchers have acknowledged the link between drugged driving and fatal accidents is not nearly as clear cut as the link between drunk driving and fatal collisions. This doesn’t mean it is safe, it just means that more research needs to be done to understand the real risks. It’s also important to consider there has been an overall increase in the total number of drivers on the road who test positive for drugs, and especially for marijuana.

A different study found 15.1 percent of drivers on a weekend night in 2013 and 2014 tested positive for drugs, and 12.6 percent tested positive for marijuana. By comparison, in 2007, 12.4 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs and 8.6 tested positive for marijuana. The fact there are overall more drivers with drugs in their system naturally suggests a higher percent of drivers involved in any accidents are likely to test positive for drugs. It doesn’t necessarily prove the drugs are causing all of the crashes.

Drugged driving is unquestionably not something you should do- but it is also essential to understand the actual risks and to make sure laws on drugged driving are fair so motorists don’t face penalties disproportionate to the severity of their actions.

Avoiding Texas DUIs During Thanksgiving Weekend


Texas criminal defense attorneyOver the Thanksgiving holiday in Texas, avoiding DWIs can be harder than at other times of the year. You may be more likely to be caught and arrested if you are impaired over Thanksgiving as compared with on any other day. There is a very simple reason why: police are really aggressive in going after suspected drunk drivers over the Thanksgiving holiday period. In fact, throughout the state of Texas, there are often “no refusal” weekends organized around this particular holiday season.

You need to know what your rights are if you are stopped during the “no refusal” weekend and drunk driving crackdown over Thanksgiving. If you find yourself faced with arrest, you also must be prepared to respond to charges in a strategic way.

Avoiding DWIs during Thanksgiving can be an especially big challenge as a result of the methods used by police to enforce impaired driving laws. As NBC Dallas Fort Worth explained, police step up patrols over Thanksgiving. These are not just regular patrols either. One trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety explained: “Lot of counties are doing what they call ‘no-refusal weekends,’ where you don’t have a choice.”

No refusal weekends refer to an inability to refuse to undergo a test of your blood-alcohol concentration. If police believe they have probable cause and you try to decline the test, police will bring you before a judge during a “no-refusal” weekend. The hearing will take place right away and the judge will assess whether or not there is reason to suspect impairment. If there is probable cause, the judge will issue a court order mandating that you submit to chemical testing to detect alcohol and drugs in your system. This could even include a court-ordered blood test.

No refusal weekends have always put motorists at a disadvantage by preventing them from declining to take a BAC test. In light of the recent Supreme Court decision to forbid states from compelling motorists to take warrantless blood tests through the use of criminal penalties, no refusal weekends have become an even bigger deal. While a motorist can now decline to undergo testing on a normal day and a warrant may not be immediately issued to compel such testing, no refusal weekends are set up to ensure a judge is ready to order a BAC assessment.

If your blood-alcohol concentration test shows impairment, you’ll need to begin putting together strategic defenses to try to avoid a conviction. You should not assume the evidence obtained against you will necessarily be admissible, as there are circumstances under which a traffic stop or BAC test was a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. If constitutional protections were violated when evidence was collected, the evidence cannot be used to secure a conviction in criminal proceedings.

Do I Have to Take a Field Sobriety or Chemical Test in Texas?


Texas criminal defense attorneyRecently, the Supreme Court ruled on a case called Birchfield v. North Dakota. The case arose because states were imposing criminal penalties for refusing blood tests when suspected of drunk driving. These laws were found to be unconstitutional, as states cannot coerce consent to a blood test by saying a motorist will be charged with a crime for not submitting to a blood draw.

The case actually addressed both blood and breath tests, and the Supreme Court drew a distinction between the two. The Court ruled that police had to get a warrant in order to compel a defendant to submit to a  blood test, even after a lawful drunk driving arrest. However, no warrant was needed to compel a defendant to submit to a breath test.

After this case, many people wonder exactly what their rights are during a drunk driving traffic stop.

While the Supreme Court provided some protection for defendants by saying they couldn’t be threatened with criminal charges for not giving blood, the Court did not overturn implied consent laws. Implied consent laws say a driver gives implied consent to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test by driving on the streets of the state. In other words, if you take advantage of the privilege to drive, you implicitly agree- even without saying so- that you’ll submit to a chemical test under appropriate circumstances.

Implied consent laws aren’t unconstitutional because the laws don’t impose criminal penalties for blood test refusal. Instead, if you decline to submit to a test, you will lose your license for a period of time and your refusal may be used against you when you face drunk driving charges.

Texas has an implied consent law, which is found in 2005 Texas Transportation Code Chapter 724.  Under this law: “If a person is arrested for a [drunk driving] offense… the person is deemed to have consented… to submit to the taking of one or more specimens of the person’s breath or blood for analysis to determine the alcohol concentration or the presence in the person’s body of a controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance.”

Because of this law, you cannot decline to take some type of chemical test upon your arrest, or you’ll lose your license and prosecutors can submit evidence of your refusal to the jury to try to convince them of your guilt. However, penalties for test refusal are often no less severe than for conviction, while test failure gives prosecutors another piece of evidence to use against you.

In any case, the law does NOT require you to take any type of field sobriety test. This means when police pull you over, if they ask you to do something like walk-and-turn or follow a moving object with your eyes or stand on one leg, you don’t have to agree to do any of these tests.  If you do agree, however, it is possible your performance on the test could be used against you. You may wish to decline the testing to make sure this doesn’t happen.