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Why You Should Never Speak to the Police After an Arrest in Houston

Texas criminal defense attorneyThe Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects Americans from being forced to incriminate themselves by the government. This right is so important that it has been incorporated into the well-known Miranda Warnings, which must be read to a suspect before he or she may be questioned by law enforcement officers.

Despite receiving these warnings, many suspects do not fully understand their implications. Virtually any statement made to a police officer can be used as incriminating evidence against the suspect. For this reason, it is important to say as little as possible before, during, and after an arrest. A Houston criminal defense attorney can help defendants protect their important constitutional rights throughout the criminal case process.

Promises, Promises

One of the most common problems suspects face upon being arrested is the promises made by law enforcement officers. A suspect will often be told that “things will go easier” if he or she cooperates. The officer may offer to tell the prosecutor that the suspect cooperated and imply that there will be leniency as a result. Some officers may even blatantly promise a reduced sentence, probation, or a diversion program in order to spare the suspect from jail time.

The fact is that only a prosecutor can decide whether to offer a plea deal. Even then, a plea offer must be accepted by a court in order to be enforceable. No officer has the authority to execute an enforceable plea deal. While an officer can indeed speak to a prosecutor about the case, his or her intervention cannot determine the outcome of a case.

This issue was examined in 2004 by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas (See Martinez v. State, 127 SW 3d 792). Mr. Martinez was arrested after police executed a search warrant on his father’s upholstery shop and found drugs on the premises. The police questioned Martinez and told him that his father and brother would not be charged with crimes so long as he admitted that the drugs were his. Mr. Martinez wrote a confession to this effect.

Later, he asked the trial court to suppress his confession, claiming that the promises about not charging his relatives rendered the confession involuntary. The trial court found that the confession was voluntary. On appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals also found that the confession was voluntary and therefore admissible against Mr. Martinez. It determined that police officers had never made a “positive promise” to the defendant. Presumably, other cases in which positive promises were made would be more likely to result in a confession being suppressed.

This case is just one of many examples of how confusing an interrogation can be for a suspect. The suspect is not familiar with the process, does not know what is happening and faces immense pressure from the officers who are questioning him or her. These factors can often work together to overcome a suspect’s will.

Some suspects may not even realize that the information they provide is, in fact, incriminating. This is why it is so important to invoke one’s right to silence after an arrest. Make a clear and unambiguous statement to the officers that you will not speak to them without the presence of a Houston criminal defense attorney.

Houston Holiday DWI Arrests Have Serious Consequences

Texas DWI lawyerFor some Texas motorists, the post-holiday blues include drunk driving charges.

The Houston Chronicle reported a slew of drunk driving arrests throughout the holiday period, in addition to 25 felony DWI arrests made by the Houston Police Department in November.

Other news reports indicate Harris County officials made 117 arrests for DWI over the holiday period. For those seeking DWI defense in Houston, it’s important to understand that the consequences of conviction can be severe.

Under Texas law, those charged with first offense drunk driving face up to 6 months in jail, thousands of dollars in fines and a one-year license suspension.

Nationwide, the average cost of a drunk driving conviction, including lost wages and increased insurance premiums, typically exceeds $10,000.

Drunk driving defense in Texas

Too often, motorists feel there is little to be done in the way of defending drunk driving arrests. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, arrests made during holiday enforcement blitzes often involve marginal or unfair arrest.

Challenging probable cause for your traffic stop, as well as disputing the results of field sobriety or breathalyzer tests, can be a valid avenue of defense. Additionally, those facing DWI charges in Houston have 15 days to request a hearing to avoid automatic suspension of their driver’s license.

An experienced drunk driving defense firm will carefully review your case for errors. Common mistakes police make include initiating stops based on 911 calls, following drivers onto private property without probable cause, stopping a car for weaving within a single lane, conducting stops at an improper roadblock and failure to follow proper procedures in the administration of breath tests or field sobriety tests.

Avoidable mistakes drivers make after arrests include not requesting an administrative license revocation hearing, not seeking the advice of an experienced DWI attorney, failure to appear in court or compounding their problems by being stopped for driving with a suspended license.

Hiring a defense attorney does not mean your case will go to trial. In fact, the vast majority of such cases are resolved without trial. Other avenues of disposition include reduction, plea bargain or dismissal of the charges. Motorists who hire experienced defense counsel can use each of these to their advantage. Those that don’t are much more likely to end up with a conviction on their permanent driving record.

Houston DWI – First offense offers best defense

“It’s just a first offense,” is another thing experienced attorneys hear too often. The fact remains that a drunk driving conviction can have consequences for years to come and may even limit your employment opportunities. Additionally, attorneys representing drivers facing a first offense often have the best chance of negotiating a reduction or dismissal of the charges.

Experienced defense attorneys understand the cost of hiring a law firm is always a concern and can address the issue with upfront costs and expectations. But when it comes to defending your rights in the wake of a holiday drunk driving charge, not seeking experienced legal advice should not be an option.

A proactive defense is always the best offense when it comes to keeping your license, protecting your rights, and giving yourself the best chance possible for a successful resolution of your case.

What To Do If You Are Arrested for a DWI

The overwhelming experience of an arrest can be made even more confusing and overwhelming when a suspect does not know what to do. By learning about the arrest process and what to do – and more importantly, what not to do –  suspects will be better able to protect their legal rights. A Montgomery County DWI attorney can provide important legal advice that will protect your constitutional rights throughout the criminal case process.DWI attorneys

(1) Don’t Panic

An arrest is a frightening experience. Many defendants are overwhelmed by the consequences they face. These consequences can include a criminal record, suspension of a driver’s license, court fines and fees, substance abuse screening and counseling, community service, jail time, and even consequences in one’s career (such as the suspension of a professional license, or disciplinary action from one’s employer). These consequences can be frightening, but they can be managed.

Unfortunately, some defendants panic and give up hope of being able to turn their lives around after a DWI. This is what one suspect did when police attempted to pull him over in Arlington on suspicion of drunk driving. The Washington Post reports that the suspect eventually drove into Lake Arlington in an attempt to evade arrest. Such panicky reactions often lead to additional criminal charges and consequences. An experienced attorney can help mitigate the damage of a DWI conviction, but only if the suspect does not first make the situation worse.

(2) Invoke Your Right to Silence

The Fifth Amendment protects criminal defendants from being made to incriminate themselves, and the government cannot compel a defendant to testify against himself or herself. This extends to incriminating statements made to law enforcement officers investigating a crime. This right is so important that in 1966, the United States Supreme Court determined that police must inform suspects of the right to remain silent and not answer incriminating questions. This opinion became the well-known Miranda Warnings.

On the scene of an arrest, it can be difficult to know what questions to answer. When a suspect is not sure whether a particular question may incriminate him or her, the best thing he or she can do is politely decline to answer without a lawyer present. Police can, however, ask for identification. Suspects should also cooperate with simple requests related to booking procedures, fingerprints, and similar activities. But suspects do have the right to remain silent throughout this process and decline to answer any incriminating questions that are posed to them.

(3) Invoke Your Right to Counsel

Both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments protect a defendant’s right to counsel. In the 1981 case of Edwards v. Arizona, the Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean that once a suspect in custody unambiguously invokes his or her right to counsel, police must stop interrogation until counsel has been made available, or until the suspect voluntarily re-initiates communication with investigators.

DWI defendants should be very careful to invoke this right as clearly as possible. Several recent cases have allowed police to continue questioning suspects when the request for an attorney was not made clearly enough. Only by unambiguously invoking the right can suspects stop police from asking incriminating questions. Consult with a Montgomery County DWI attorney as soon as possible after any arrest in order to protect your legal rights and promote fairness in the criminal court process.

Houston DWI Enforcement Over the Thanksgiving Holiday

Law enforcement agencies across Texas step up DWI enforcement efforts during the holidays. Drivers should be prepared for this enforcement, and understand their rights if they do encounter police on the road after consuming alcohol.

Thanksgiving isn’t generally seen as a wild holiday, but it has become one of the top holiday weekends for drunk driving accidents (and in turn, for DWI enforcement). Authorities have speculated it has to do with college students and others returning to their home towns to catch up with old friends the day before the big feast.

Knowing that your odds of DWI arrest in Texas are much higher on a holiday weekend, it’s best to take measures to avoid those encounters. Although drinking and driving aren’t technically illegal, problems can arise when normal faculties are affected and/or blood-alcohol content meets or exceeds 0.08.

Texas DWI Law

The Texas Penal Code Section 49.01(1) defines intoxication as not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body. This means that defendants can also face the consequences of DWI if they are under the influence of drugs. This can include recreational drugs, medicinal marijuana, or even lawfully prescribed medications which were used as directed.

This statute has been put to use more and more frequently as America’s opioid crisis expands to its roadways. According to the Washington Post, 2015 was the first year in which drugged driving caused more traffic fatalities than drunk driving.

How Texas Law Enforcement Agencies Increase Their DWI Enforcement Efforts Around Holidays

The law enforcement agencies of Texas – like those of many other states – step up DWI checkpoints and other enforcement measures during holidays which are the most likely to result in drunk driving. The Sugar Land Patch reports on such a campaign produced by the Sugar Land Police Department over Memorial Day weekend. And here in Houston, the Fourth of July saw increased DWI enforcement efforts by the Houston Police Department. Click2Houston interviewed one sergeant who reported an increase in drivers impaired by a combination of drugs and alcohol, or multiple drugs.

Thanksgiving is also a time of enhanced DWI enforcement in Houston. The Katy News reports that 2016 was the third consecutive year in which the Regional DWI Task Force was assembled over the Thanksgiving holiday. While the details of 2017 Thanksgiving DWI enforcement have not been released, it is likely that similar enhanced enforcement strategies will be implemented throughout the Houston area.

It is now easier than ever for drivers to avoid the many consequences of DWI by simply getting another ride. Ride sharing apps such as Lyft and Uber allow drivers to summon a ride exactly when and where they need it. The Uber fare pales in comparison to the fines, court fees, attorney’s fees, and other expenses associated with a DWI. If Uber or Lyft are not available in your area, a designated driver or taxi can be used as a backup.

Accessing more backup options for rides reduces the likelihood of driving while intoxicated. If you are arrested on suspicion of DWI, be sure to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced Houston DWI attorney will ensure that your constitutional rights are protected during any criminal proceedings.

The Consequences of Drugged Driving in Texas Are Severe

Drunk driving gets a significant amount of media coverage. Campaigns target drunk drivers, and holidays are especially known for increased enforcement at DUI checkpoints. With all this attention, it can be easy to forget that drugged driving is also prevalent in Houston. According to the Washington Post, 2015 was the first year in which drugged driving caused more traffic fatalities than drunk driving. These statistics have lead many law enforcement agencies to step up their efforts to target drivers who are impaired by prescription and recreational drugs. Houston defendants who have been charged with DWI, whether from drugs or alcohol, face severe criminal penalties and many other collateral consequences.DWI attorneys

How Current Drugged Driving Laws Make it Difficult to Protect Defendant’s Constitutional Rights

The Texas Penal Code Section 49.01(1) defines intoxication as not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol or a controlled substance into the body.

However, despite the fact that driving under the influence of opioids is a crime, this law is incredibly difficult to enforce and prosecute. Like most other states, Texas has not been able to set a blood level at which impaired driving from drug use can be inferred. Unlike alcohol, researchers have not yet been able to confidently assess the point at which humans are likely to be impaired by such drugs. This makes it more difficult for officers to establish probable cause that a driver is impaired by drugs.

The Illinois Herald-Review interviewed officers to learn more about the challenges faced by drug recognition experts. One such DRE reported that he is often called to a scene when the suspect’s blood alcohol content does not match his or her observed level impairment.

The vague statutory definition works both for and against defendants. From a prosecution standpoint, it is difficult to prove a charge when there is no definitive blood level for drug impairment, as there is for alcohol impairment. On the other hand, defendants are often left with only their own testimony that they did not feel impaired at the time of the offense. This testimony is rarely enough to persuade a jury. More importantly, a defendant may be forced to give up the constitutional protection against self-incrimination in order to invoke this defense.

A common example occurs when a defendant admits that he or she has been using a prescription medication, but is not impaired by it. This statement – which was intended to be used to clear the defendant of wrongdoing – can later be found at the center of the prosecution’s case against the defendant.

These ambiguities in drugged driving enforcement make it even more important for DWI defendants to seek legal advice. If you or a loved one has been charged with driving while intoxicated by drugs, contact an experienced Houston DWI defense attorney as soon as possible. You have important constitutional rights which must be protected.

New Texas DUI Blood Draw Law Could Challenge Houston Defense Attorneys

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May
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DUI-blood-draw-warrantsTexas 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 KXAN.com, 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.