Do Ignition Interlock Devices Work to Stop Houston DUIs?


Ignition 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). right-hand-drive-steering-whee-1528193

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?


dont drink and driveMuch higher than you might expect, a Texas DWI defense lawyer explains

Being 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?


Recently, 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. dutch-weed-2-1246658

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


Over 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. dry-zone-1327535-1

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?


Recently, 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. call-the-cops-1254795

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


In 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. fun-night-1157263

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

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.


You May Be Able to Challenge Scientific Evidence in a First Offense DWI


Many people arrested for a first offense DWI mistakenly believe when scientific testing has occurred that it will be difficult or impossible to get an acquittal. The reality is those who conduct the tests are not infallible and mistakes happen regularly. If you can successfully get a jury to have any reasonable doubt about the quality of toxicology testing or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing, you may be able to avoid a guilty verdict. breathalyzer-1240974

Challenging Scientific Evidence in a First Offense DWI Case

Recently, evidence of problems with the work performed by one Texas official illustrated how unreliable scientific testing can sometimes be in DWI cases. ABC 13 reported dozens of DWI cases are at risk because of the poor work performed by the DWI breath test technical supervisor at one Texas police department.

The DWI breath test supervisor was responsible for overseeing all tests conducted on breath test machines, including the Intoxilyzer 5000. When breath test results were introduced in drunk driving cases, her technical expertise was highlighted by the prosecuting attorney and she often appeared in court to provide testimony. Unfortunately, many DUI defense attorneys began to notice serious problems with her work, though it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what the issues were or prove what errors she was making.

An internal investigation has now demonstrated her expertise was virtually non-existent and the “science” behind her supervision of breath tests was nothing more than junk science. The internal investigation into her work resulted in her termination because of a wide variety of performance issues.

ABC 13 obtained documents from the Internal Affairs investigation, in which one of her supervisors noted her work was so poorly done it was a “ticking time bomb.” Because many different departments contracted with her PD for its breath alcohol work, the internal affairs documents indicated the substandard quality of her work “could jeopardize nine police agencies in four different counties” and could “jeopardize the integrity of the entire program.” The department became aware of her performance issues at least as far back as 2014, and she was suspended at least once in 2015, but remained in her supervisory role until recently.

The fact she was able to continue working for two years despite known issues with her job performance illustrates there are lapses in the system designed to ensure the accuracy of breath tests. If a breath test or other chemical test is to be used against a drunk driving defendant, it needs to be 100 percent accurate and the process should be supervised by someone with actual credentials and experience. Whenever test results fall short of providing sufficient proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a defendant’s guilt in a DWI case, the defendant who has been accused of drunk driving based on a high BAC test should be acquitted of the charges.

Common Mistakes After a First Offense DWI In Texas


Recently, a man in Texas was sentenced to life in prison after his ninth DWI charge. This was the man’s fifth trip to jail after being convicted of driving while impaired. In the most recent instance, he was involved in a collision and hit another car almost head-on. He ran to a nearby convenience store and asked a clerk to try to hide him, but was unsuccessful in evading police and faced charges. The judge indicated he did not believe the man could be rehabilitated, according to 6 ABCglass-4-1507942

While this case is an unusual one and a life sentence for drunk driving is not common, cases like this illustrate the rapidly increasing penalties that can result from repeat drunk driving convictions. The fact that penalties become progressively more severe is one of many reasons why you need to take a first offense DWI seriously.

Unfortunately, many people who are charged with drunk driving do not know how to respond to their charges or how to protect their future, especially if this drunk driving charge is their first time dealing with the criminal justice system.

Mistakes to Avoid After a First Offense DWI

After a first offense DWI, there are common mistakes many defendants make because of their lack of familiarity with the Texas criminal justice system and because they are unaware of their options. Some of the mistakes you want to avoid include the following:

  • Waiting to act. There are deadlines you need to meet to protect your license. You also want to try to gather evidence as soon as you can to ensure you have the best chance of a strong defense.
  • Pleading guilty without exploring options. In some cases, pleading guilty is the best choice because there is strong evidence against you and limited options for defense. In many other situations, however, you may be able to avoid a conviction.  Even if you do decide you should plead guilty, you should make sure you try to get the best plea deal possible from a prosecutor.
  • Assuming you will be found guilty for failing a BAC test. If your blood alcohol concentration was tested and was above the .08 legal limit, you might assume this evidence is enough to convict you. The reality is, there are ways to raise reasonable doubt about whether the evidence is accurate. There could also be ways to try to get the evidence suppressed so it cannot be used to secure a guilty verdict. Never assume you cannot be acquitted, even if the scientific evidence is not on your side.
  • Not hiring a lawyer. You should have a lawyer looking out for your interests.

The best way to try for the most positive outcome possible after an arrest for impaired driving is to talk to an experienced attorney before responding to charges.

New Law Helps Drivers After a First Offense DWI in Texas


KXAN reported recently on a Texas man who was arrested for his fifth DWI.  The driver had caused a collision in I-35 which involved three automobiles. The driver’s blood alcohol concentration was allegedly found to be .262 on toxicology reports, which is significantly over the .08 legal limit that applies within the state of Texas. gps-driving-2-1353290

Repeat DWI offenses are very common, but the state is making an effort to stop people from getting repeat convictions. As KXAN reported, this effort is focused on helping drivers to get back behind the wheel while making sure they are not able to drive drunk once they have the opportunity to resume driving.

If you are arrested and facing charges of a first offense DWI in Texas, you need to understand the state’s new approach to drunk driving offenders so you can make informed choice about how you wish to proceed.

New Texas Law Applies After a First Offense DWI In Texas

If you have been arrested for a first offense DWI in Texas, the penalties that you face include a possible fine up to $2,000, between three days incarceration and 180 days in jail, the loss of a license to drive for as long as one year, and an annual fee of between $1,000 and $2,000 to retain a driver’s license over the next three years. It is also common for car insurance rates to rise significantly. The DWI conviction could also remain on your criminal record, affecting opportunities for jobs and for furthering your education.

As KXAN reports, however, first time offenders who are found guilty of drunk driving may not have to face a long license suspension that affects their ability to drive to work obligations and to fulfill family obligations. This is because a new law, which went into effect in September, allows some first time offenders to continue driving as long as they install an ignition interlock device into their vehicle.

For a first offense, it is possible for an ignition interlock device to be used instead of a license suspension for between 90 days and one year. This option actually makes it difficult or impossible for someone to drive drunk because a driver has to blow into a breathalyzer test on the ignition interlock device which is installed in the car. If the BAC is above .08, the driver cannot drive the car.

Some research has shown an ignition interlock device can reduce repeat offenses, although other data suggests this effect lasts only as long as the device remains on the car. The good thing, however, is that if you are eligible, you can agree to have this device installed so you won’t face a lengthy license suspension.

This does not necessarily mean you should plead guilty to a first DWI offense or that there aren’t approaches to avoid conviction and avoid penalties entirely. It is important to explore all available options when charged with impaired driving so you can make the best choice for the short term as well as for your long-term future.

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