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New Texas DUI Blood Draw Law Could Challenge Houston Defense Attorneys

17
May
By:

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.

Avoiding a First Offense DWI this Football Season

Football 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. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

 

Texas Follows “Red-State” Trend of Being Tough on DWI Defendants

22
Jul
By:

Red states tend to impose harsher penalties on people who drive under the influence of alcohol, as compared with blue states. Wallet Hub ranked all 50 states plus the District of Columbia in terms of how strict each was with its impaired driving penalties. The strictest state (Arizona) was ranked 1st and the least strict state (South Dakota) was ranked 51st. When classifying all of the states, red states had an average ranking of 23 and blue states had an average ranking of 28.2. paper-map-2-1372604-m

Texas was one of many red states that was stricter than most other locations in the U.S. in its treatment of people convicted of drunk driving. Because those found guilty face serious criminal penalties, anyone accused of impaired driving should consult with an attorney familiar with all aspects of Texas DWI law as soon as possible post-arrest to begin developing an effective strategy to fight charges.

Texas Imposes Strict Penalties on DWI Defendants

The state of Texas ranked 18th out of 51 in terms of how strict its penalties are when a defendant is found guilty of impaired driving. It was tied with New Hampshire and was above South Carolina (ranked 20th) and below Colorado (ranked 17th).

One area in which Texas is stricter than most other locations is in the mandatory minimum jail terms imposed on defendants convicted of impaired driving. In Texas, a first time offender who is convicted of driving while impaired will be sentenced to a minimum of three days imprisonment and a repeat offender with one past conviction will be sentenced to 30 days. The national average is one day in jail for a first offense and 21 days in jail for a second offense.

Texas had a shorter look back period, or time period during which past convictions count against offenders. In Texas, only convictions in the prior five years count to determine whether you have past convictions. Many other states, including South Carolina, Florida, New Hampshire, Oregon and Louisiana, have a 10-year look back period.

Texas, like many other locations, makes a third offense for DWI a felony conviction. Some locations like Alabama and Arkansas do not impose an automatic felony charge until a fourth offense, while others like Colorado never make impaired driving an automatic felony.

Texas is among the states imposing a 12-month ignition interlock device requirement on those who are found guilty of a first DWI with a BAC of .15. Only four states impose longer than a 12-month ignition interlock requirement (Delaware at 14 months, Oklahoma at 18 months, Massachusetts at 24 months, and Rhode Island at 24 months).

Unlike many other states, however, Texas does not have minimum fines for a first or second conviction for impaired driving. Some states will fine repeat defendants as much as $2100. While conviction won’t necessarily lead to large fines, Texas drivers do see a 44 percent increase in insurance premiums after a conviction, compared to other locations with much lower premium increases.

Defendants need to be aware that Texas is stricter than many other states and need to ensure they are taking aggressive steps to defend themselves from a guilty verdict.

Sleep Driving as a Defense to Houston DWI

29
May
By:

Does a defendant in Houston, Harris County and Montgomery County need to make a voluntary choice to be convicted of driving drunk? This is a question that comes up in some complex DWI cases. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, a DWI defense lawyer can help you to explore ways to sleepdrivemake it difficult for a prosecutor to prove the case against you. If you can disprove any part of the crime, you should avoid conviction.

Some defendants try to avoid being convicted of driving drunk by claiming that they did not make a choice to engage in the behavior. This defense may work under limited circumstances depending upon state laws. You need to make sure you talk to a lawyer before raising any defense because an argument that worked for one defendant may not work for you.

Does DWI Require a Voluntary Act?

Courthouse News reported one DWI defendant who was challenging the suspension of his license to drive. His license was revoked by a hearing officer as part of administrative proceedings that result in the automatic suspension of a driver’s license when someone is considered to be impaired. The motorist had been arrested for having alcohol in his system while driving, and his license was revoked because he was over-the-limit.

The motorist also had Ambien in his system at the time of his DWI arrest. The Ambien detected through chemical testing was in normal therapeutic dose. One known side effect of Ambien is that the medication can result in people getting up and doing things after they have taken the pills and while they are asleep. A person who acts while sleeping is in a somnambulistic state. Sleep driving is a common activity that people who take Ambien do when they are in a somnambulistic state.

The motorist claims that he shouldn’t have lost his license because he was not acting voluntarily when he got behind the wheel drunk after he took Ambien and acted in a somnambulistic state. He believes that the hearing officer who held that his license should be revoked made an error in ruling that a DWI does not require a voluntary act.

The motorist who is challenging his suspension is in Colorado, so the case will be heard in Colorado courts and the local DWI laws will be interpreted in order to determine if the driver should lose his license for a period of time.  Other state laws may be written differently and a different outcome may occur if a defendant tries to challenge a license suspension or a DWI charge by claiming that he should not be held accountable because he acted involuntarily while on Ambien or was under the influence of other prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

Texas plaintiffs have previously had charges dropped when they claimed they acted involuntarily and drove under the influence of Ambien.  The Guardian reported on one Texas woman who battled for years to get her charges dropped — she was ultimately successful.

Whenever you have any type of complex DWI case, it is important to have an experienced DWI defense lawyer to help determine the best course of action.

Call Joseph LaBella & Associates today at 800-395-5951 or visit www.texas-dwi-lawyers.com to speak with a Houston DWI defense lawyer. Serving Harris County, Montgomery County, and communities along Interstate 45 through The Woodlands and Conroe.

Drugged Driving an Increasing Focus of Law Enforcement

25
Feb
By:

In Houston, TX, you can be arrested if you have a blood alcohol concentration exceeding the legal limit, which is set at .08 BAC. However, you can also be arrested for impaired driving even if you are not over-the-limit on alcohol. If you have drugs in your system, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, then you can find yourself charged with an impaired driving offense. A DWI arrest can lead to the loss of your driver’s license, a criminal record and potentially a requirement to complete a mandatory drug counseling program.116921095

A DUI defense lawyer can provide you with legal representation in both drunk driving and drugged driving cases. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a report indicating that there are fewer drunk drivers on the road than in past history but that the number of drugged drivers is increasing. As more evidence comes to light that there has been a shift in who is driving impaired, law enforcement practices are shifting to ensure there is sufficient focus on identifying drugged drivers. This can mean a greater crackdown on people who may have potentially used marijuana or other drugs before getting behind the wheel.

Drugged Driving is On-the-Rise

Over the past 40 years, the NHTSA has conducted five roadside surveys of drivers. These surveys are set up as road blocks, and drivers are given plenty of warning that a road block is upcoming. Motorists who go through the road block have their BAC tested and can be tested for drugs in their system. If someone does turn out to be impaired, he is not arrested. The data on impairment is collected anonymously in order to get a better understanding of how many people are drunk or high behind the wheel at any given time.

The reports from the most recent national roadside survey have been released and they show that there has been a 30 percent decline between 2007 and 2014 in the number of people with a BAC above the legal limit. Just eight percent of motorists were found to have any alcohol in their system and just one percent were found to be over-the-limit. Compared with the first NHTSA roadside survey that was performed in 1973, this was an 80 percent drop in the number of people driving under the influence of alcohol. This low number shows the effectiveness both of public education campaigns organized by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, as well as the aggressive policing of drunk drivers.

The number of drivers who were found to be on drugs, however, has increased. From 2007 to 2014, the number of weekend nighttime drivers who had drugs in their system increased by 16.3 percent.

It is more difficult for law enforcement officers to identify drugged drivers in many cases, but as studies continue to show an increase in the number of drugged drivers, it is likely that law enforcement officers and lawmakers will begin exploring new ways to solve the problem of drugged driving.

Call Joseph LaBella & Associates today at 800-395-5951 or visit http://www.texas-dwi-lawyers.com/ to speak with a Houston DUI defense lawyer. Serving Harris County, Montgomery County, and communities along Interstate 45 through The Woodlands and Conroe.