Archive for the ‘Drunk Driving’ Category

“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.

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 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.

Why College Students Need to be Careful to Avoid a First DWI


Texas criminal defense attorneyIn Houston, many students have now arrived for the semester to attend school at Houston Community College, Lone Star College, Houston Baptist University, Prairie View A & M, Rice University, Sam Houston State University, and other local universities. Many of these students will kick off their semester by having a few drinks with friends, and may will continue to drink throughout the semester. Villanova reports around 80 percent of college students drink regularly, with around 30 percent often drinking more than four drinks in a single sitting.

Alcohol use is part of life in college, but this does not mean it is consequence free.  College students 21 and over could face charges of driving while impaired if they have a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit of .08 percent. For younger college students who are drinking, zero tolerance laws mean it is possible to face legal trouble for impaired driving for as little as a single drink.

Any time accusations are made of impaired driving, for some either over or under the age 21, it is important for the college student to react proactively and appropriately and raise drunk driving defenses. Even a single first DWI arrest could have profound consequences for someone who is in college.

College students are often very busy going to class and doing work. A DWI can significantly interfere with the ability to attend school, be productive, and perform in class. Even if you are only arrested and not convicted, you will have to spend time away from your studies in court and you will have to spend money on defending against the charges and facing court costs. You don’t want to waste precious college time or money you may not have in dealing with impaired driving charges.

If you are convicted, the lasting consequences of your DWI conviction can also affect your semester. Your penalties may restrict you from drinking at all, which means no more going out with friends. The loss of your license could make it hard for you to get to campus or to go to off-campus jobs and work. You could even have to spend time doing community service or serving jail time, which takes away from your studies and which could mean missing class.

If you hope to go on to higher education, your DWI on your record could be bad news for admissions and, depending upon what you were specifically charged with, could affect your financial aid or your ability to become licensed in certain professions.

You need to try to avoid these consequences by responding right away and getting the right legal advice to fight a DWI. Whether you are over or under 21 when you are charged, an attorney can help you to raise DWI defenses for a first DWI or subsequent impaired driving arrest.

Avoiding a First Offense DWI this Football Season

Texas criminal defense attorneyFootball season has officially arrived, which means that it is now the prime time of the year for people to watch the game and have a few drinks. Unfortunately, law enforcement officials know that football season is a time when a lot of people like to sip some beers while watching the game with friends. Police step up enforcement of drunk and drugged driving during this time of year, which leads to more people being arrested for impaired driving.

You don’t want to get a first offense DWI this football season and end up with your life changed forever, so you need to make smart choices in order to avoid getting charged. If you do find yourself arrested and facing prosecution, you also need to respond in an aggressive and strategic way to reduce the chances that you will end up with serious consequences associated with a drunk driving conviction.

Texas Department of Transportation urges football fans to “plan while you can,” and provides some details on impaired driving arrests during football season. The info provided is designed to encourage motorists to avoid drinking and driving. According to Texas DOT, there were 10,676 alcohol-related traffic accidents over the course of the 2014 football season. In these accidents, 492 fatalities occurred. This was a seven percent increase in the number of people who were killed in drunk driving auto accidents during the football season compared within the prior year.

To try to prevent a continued increase in drunk driving deaths, Texas DOT developed the Plan While You Can statewide campaign. The campaign will run through Super Bowl Sunday, and it is focused on reducing the number of DWI-related accidents that happen during football season. The campaign urges all fans to find a designated driver or otherwise determine how they will get home before they attend any events (like parties or games) where drinking is occurring.

The public education campaign is just part of the efforts to help save lives by preventing drunk driving crashes. Because Texas officials are aware of the highest risk days during football season, there are typically more police out patrolling on those days. The days identified as high-risk include both days when professional football games are being played, as well as days where there are local Texas teams playing.

Drivers need to know that there is a potentially greater chance they will encounter police if they drive while impaired on football days. While you should always make a plan to drive sober, it is especially important not to put yourself at risk of  DWI first offense on football days.  If you do find yourself facing charges, you also need to react in a timely and strategic manner by calling an experienced attorney to advise you on your options for responding to drunk driving accusations.