Teen Drinking Consequences in Texas

 While going through a new TABC site, it became clear that the long term repercussions of underage drinking are great for Texas' young people. While we can chalk some of it up to simply being young and running with life on their own terms, there are some important realities that can sometimes get lost in that time in our lives. Those realities can change everything at a time when consistency is crucial.

For both parents and teens, the laws are very specific and when there’s an automobile, driver’s license and a car full of teens involved, the entire game plan changes.

Texas Teens and Drunk Driving

If you have a teen or young adult under the age of 21, Texas law is clear. They can be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor if they’re caught with alcoholic beverages in their possession or if it’s determined they’re consuming those beverages. Even attempting to purchase alcohol under the age of 21 is a crime. And if your teen lies while trying to buy beer or liquor, that’s yet another charge.

In terms of drunk driving laws – they’re not applicable in ways you might think.  It is illegal for a teen to drive a car or operate a boat or other watercraft with any amount of alcohol in their system. That means a teen doesn’t have to be drunk or “buzzed”; if he has anything at all in his system, he’s committed a crime.

And make no mistake: the consequences in place are serious.

Your teen can be hit with a $500 fine, he can be ordered to take both an alcohol awareness course as well as be ordered to community service.

His driver’s license is at risk of suspension.

If he’s 17 or older and he’s been charged twice in the past, his third offense means potential jail time. That’s on top of his driver’s license being suspended.

911 Lifeline Laws

Many teens find themselves feeling hopeless if they see their friends participating in risky behaviors due to alcohol. As parents, we have an obligation to ensure they understand they won’t be in legal trouble, even if they have been drinking or have alcohol in their possession, if they’re requesting medical assistance for their friends. Plus, staying on scene with their friend until that help arrives and then providing medical personnel and law enforcement in a truthful manner also protects them from legal troubles.  Too many times, kids leave the scene out of fear of being caught drinking. These laws ensure they’re able to do the right thing with no worries about finding themselves in legal trouble.

Finally, it’s absolutely crucial to reach out for legal help if your teen has been charged with any kind of crime that includes alcohol. It’s not until the realities set in that their future could be tarnished with a mistake made as a teen. It can jeopardize their college educations and can mean higher insurance premiums, even after they’re on their own. 

Leaving The Scene Of An Accident Can Be Worse Than DWI In Harris County, Texas

A moment of distraction when driving can lead to unforeseen consequences, whether in the form of a rear-end dent or unintended bodily harm. Most drivers never intend to cause damage or harm and thus panic when faced with such a situation. Their flee-or not to flee response is activated by fear and adrenaline.  People choose the reaction that their instincts say lead to a higher chance of survival: They drive away.

There have been multiple reports of people who drove while intoxicated and accidentally hit another car or even person in this condition. Earlier this year, a teenage hit two cars one night and then drove home, only to put on Facebook a status that described his actions. He was arrested for two counts of failing to stop and give information, although his status was not enough evidence to arrest him for drunk driving. However, because he fled the scene after hitting the cars, he was charged with leaving the scene of an accident that involved property damage. The charge could potentially have result in a punishment even more severe than the one he would've received had he been charged with DWI if someone had been hurt. Similarly, a nurse was sentenced to five year in jail for a hit-and-run case in which she drove drunk and killed a teen cyclist. She was later described as having been "in a state of shock" upon arriving to work after leaving the accident scene. The severity of her sentence is believed to partially be connected to how she had not stayed on scene after colliding with the cyclist.

Failure to stop and give information or Failure to render aid cases are more common than people believe, and punishments for these are particularly severe when connected to alcohol consumption. Most people do not intend to drive when drunk, and none ever intend to hit something or someone while in that state. However, should such an incident occur, it is important to remember to remain at the scene. People fear the consequences of being caught intoxicated, but the consequences of being charged with leaving the scene may be even more severe - as seen with the teen who posted on Facebook, but who was not charged with DWI, and with the nurse.

If you should ever find yourself in a similar situation, do not hesitate to seek legal advice immediately. We deal specifically with cases of drunk driving and are dedicated to helping you, as long as you remember to call as soon as the accident occurs.  Our phone number is 713-242-1779.

How A First Time DWI Becomes A Felony?

 A Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) becomes a felony offense in Texas if there is a child in the car at the time of the arrest. Recently, a Montgomery County grand jury indicted a New Caney man on charges that he was intoxicated behind the wheel with five children in his vehicle.” The 39-year-old driver was pulled over for erratic driving in a parking lot on March 16. The DWI charge was raised to a felony because he was driving with five children ranging from ages 4 to 13.

According to the Texas Penal Code, when the operator of a motor vehicle in a public place is determined to have a .08 blood alcohol level or higher and has a 14-year-old or younger passenger  in the vehicle, the offense is considered a state jail felony.

See section 49.045:http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.49.htm

A DWI is normally considered a misdemeanor offense, but when a child passenger is involved the felony penalty carries a possible state prison sentence from 180 days- two years and a fine up to $10,000.

The DWI charge can be further complicated by charges of child endangerment which could cause authorities to involve the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. In some cases the child or children could be removed from the parents’ or guardian’s custody.

Following a DWI arrest and charges of this magnitude, the best course of action is to secure experienced, reliable representation immediately. I will protect your rights and help you navigate the criminal justice system. Contact my firm at 713-242-1779 as soon as possible so I can analyze all aspects of your case and create a defense that will afford you the best possible outcome. 

Defending An Intoxication Manslaughter Case

 A recent vehicular homicide case  from New Orleans demonstrates how important it is to enlist the services of expert lawyers in any situation involving driving while intoxicated. In Houston, Harris County, Texas we call this intoxication manslaughter. the case seemed cut and dry.  In 2009, a man who was driving while intoxicated hit a pedestrian and killed him during the Mardi Gras festivities.  Initially, the jury convicted the man of vehicular homicide, and he was sentenced to five years in prison.  His attorneys, however, recently succeeded in appealing the conviction.  And while the case isn't over yet, as prosecutors move to challenge the appeal, it does show that the evidence brought by the state needs to be airtight and demonstrate conclusively that a defendant committed a particular crime.

A key part of the defense attorneys' arguments rested on the fact that the prosecution couldn't demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant's intoxication actually caused the accident.  Though he may have been intoxicated when he hit the pedestrian, a non-intoxicated driver might have done the same under the circumstances.  They argued that the pedestrian had suddenly stepped out onto the street in such a way that even someone who wasn't driving drunk would not have been able to react quickly enough to stop the car in time, particularly because it was dark outside.  The prosecution also couldn't prove that the defendant was speeding or otherwise driving unstably.

Another issue raised by the defense points to a weakness in how police collected evidence in the case.  They drew blood from the defendant the night of the accident, but didn't send the blood to a lab to be processed in a timely manner.  In any instance when police arrest someone for driving while intoxicated, it's important that they follow all protocols; otherwise, the case against the defendant may rest on shakier grounds.

In spite of how clear cut a case may seem, there may always be weaknesses in the arguments brought against a defendant and possible mistakes or misconduct in the actions of the state.  Every case requires careful review.

If you are searching for a lawyer that handles Intoxication Manslaughter cases please do not hesitate to contact me at 713-242-1779.

How to hire a DWI lawyer?

DWI Warning: Don't let July 4th Fireworks Cloud Your Judgement!

 I know that you are proud of the country that you live in and want to celebrate on the upcoming July 4th holiday. But as you celebrate, be aware that the Texas Department of Public Safety will be watching you as you watch the fireworks overhead.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will be increasing its patrols and will be directing its focus on alcohol related driving violations. According to TxDOT, the holiday weekend that includes Independence Day is one of the deadliest of the year as a result of alcohol related crashes. To insure the public's safety, state troopers as well as local law enforcement will be cracking down on those drivers in violation of Texas DWI laws. In 2012, the ten day crack down resulted in over 1200 alcohol related arrests with additional citations being written for speeding, seat belts, and various other infractions.

I love celebrating this holiday, as most Americans do. But one single bad decision can be life changing, so use caution as you celebrate.

  • If you are attending a celebration away from home, pre-arrange sober transportation. Either designate a sober driver or plan access to public transportation or taxis. Have the phone number in your phone or accessible to you.
  • If you are hosting a celebration, have those same numbers available and gather guest car keys when they arrive. Being a 'party pooper' could save lives.
  • Never get in a car with an intoxicated driver. By putting your life at risk with an intoxicated driver, you are also enforcing his/her belief in their ability to drive. And remember, its not just your life at risk, it is the life of everyone else on the roadways.
  • Consider your passengers. If you are driving the family home from a celebration, consider the young passengers that are not old enough to dissent. Also, any intoxicated passengers may not be in the position to make rational decisions pertaining to their own safety.

In the ten day period from June 28 to July 7, DPS will be doing their best to assure your safety. So celebrate safely and wisely. Those lights behind you should be fireworks.....not those on a patrol car.

Erin Brockovich Faces Boating-Related DWI Charges

 "Brockovich, played by Julia Roberts in the movie "Erin Brockovich," was discovered to have had more than twice the legal .08 blood alcohol limit after she had trouble docking her boat on Lake Mead near Las Vegas, authorities said," -- Daily News, 6/9/2013.

Portrayed by Julia Roberts in the Oscar-winning movie of the same name, Erin Brockovich is now a household name. No longer a file clerk spearheading the solo investigation which eventually resulted in one of the largest toxic tort injury settlements in U.S. history, Ms. Brockovich is an established author, speaker, and television host.  

Unfortunately, despite her compelling life story and phenomenal successes, Ms. Brockovich suffered quite a blow last Friday. She was arrested while boating on Lake Mead near Las Vegas after officials noticed she was struggling with what should be a very simple docking maneuver.

In fact, Ms. Brockovich's blood alcohol level was reported to be more than twice the legal limit of .08. Though released on a $1000 bond, this will not be the end of her ordeal.

Many people mistakenly neglect to realize that the same DWI laws that apply to operating a motor vehicle on land, also apply to operating a boat on the water. Many people this summer will enjoy drinking with friends while enjoying a boat ride, but must always remember to be sure that only a designated, non-drinking operator will be at the controls.

Intoxication Manslaughter Charges Filed after DWI Results in Officer's Death

 When a DWI case involves a death, an individual can sometimes face charges of intoxication manslaughter. That’s the case with a man who allegedly caused a recent accident, which resulted in the death of a Harris County sheriff’s deputy.  That suspect now faces second degree felony charges that could result in a prison term of between two and twenty years.

The accident happened on May 19, when a vehicle driven by Andres Munos-Munos collided with the personal vehicle of Sgt. Dwayne Polk, a deputy with more than 16 years of experience. According to police, Munos-Munos ran a red light at the intersection of North Shepherd and Little York, thereby colliding with Polk’s vehicle. Investigators claim there were no skid marks that indicated Munos-Munos even attempted to stop before the collision happened.

Polk was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Meanwhile, Munos-Munos was apprehended and taken to Ben Taub hospital for treatment. While there, a mandatory blood draw was also administered. The results of that test indicated the man was intoxicated, and he was taken into custody upon being released from the medical facility.

An investigation into the incident revealed that Munos-Munos had entered this country illegally. It also showed a prior arrest for DWI in June 2012. In addition to his intoxication manslaughter charges, Munos-Munos was also charged by police for carrying a weapon illegally.

Intoxication manslaughter charges are serious, and should only be handled by an attorney who specializes in DWI defense.  If you or someone you know is facing these charges, you may contact my law office for a consultation on defending these charges.

Some Drivers Charged With Drunk Driving May Get a Reprieve

 I have always maintained that field sobriety tests were flawed. According to a recent Houston Chronicle report, more than 1,200 DWI arrests may have been conducted either using a machine that was not maintained correctly or by an officer who was not qualified to operate testing equipment.

Oftentimes, when a driver is charged with drunk driving it is because they failed a breathalyzer test or a roadside field sobriety test. But, when the equipment is being operated by someone who is unqualified, or using faulty equipment, the test results may be worthless.

Police officers who stop you may have been monitoring your driving for a block or two before the. They may have been checking for speeding or any other action that appears erratic.  When you have had a drink or two before driving, you may be feeling very self-conscious but this doesn’t mean you need to panic. After all, most people are very responsible about driving and chances are you have done nothing wrong.

I always warn drivers to be careful about responding to questions when they are stopped in traffic. Remember, pay attention to and answer the officer’s questions and provide them with your license and registration when they request it. I strongly recommend you not submit to a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test.  The fact there is now proof these tests may be flawed or the operators are not qualified to administer these tests is another valid reason to follow this advice.

With more than 1,200 driver’s potentially being exonerated because of faulty equipment or unqualified operators, it’s a good time for me to remind you to avoid taking these tests. Remember, summer is the time when more people are stopped for DWI charges. It’s important you know your rights.

New Tests Enable Detection of Synthetic Marijuana Use

 “The new synthetic drugs that have been flooding the market have been a growing cause for concern for employers. To get around testing positive for marijuana, many employees have turned to synthetic marijuana due to the inability of companies to test for the presence of it in a urine sample—until now. An ABC News article released last week revealed that employers will now be able to determine if employees are using synthetic marijuana products like Spice,” –Houston Chronicle, 5/29/2013.

If I have learned anything in years of practice in this field, it is that when enhanced testing techniques enable detection of a wider range of illegal substances, new cases will follow quickly on their heels.

When these substances first hit the market, they were entirely legal. They were openly available at gas stations, tobacco shops, and convenience stores. Unless they’have kept on top of recent changes in federal and state laws, some unfortunate citizens will surely be in for a very unpleasant surprise.

Just two years ago, the Texas Controlled Substances Act ensured that Texans convicted of using the chemicals in synthetic marijuana would face severe penalties including prison time. Last year, the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 rendered mere possession a federal offense.  

Ignorantia legis neminem excusat – Ignorance of the law excuses no one.

It may be true that a client’s ignorance of the latest laws governing the use of synthetic marijuana will not excuse him or her from potential conviction, but it is also true that a “positive” test for these substances does not guarantee that conviction.

Randy Travis Sues to Prevent Release of Drunk Driving Video

 While drunk driving arrests are usually recorded on camera, most of the time nobody is particularly interested in seeing the video footage. When you’re a celebrity, things are a little different--especially if you happen to be wearing your birthday suit at the time of your arrest. Just ask country music star Randy Travis, who was found naked on the side of a North Texas road and arrested for driving while intoxicated after he wrecked his Trans Am last August.

I'm not sure that everyone is necessarily clamoring to see footage of a drunk, naked Randy Travis. But people do seem to have a strange fascination with the ordeals of the rich and famous, and the media knows it.

As this article explains, originally the presiding judge in the case granted the defense’s request to block release of the video to the public. The judge even issued a ruling ordering that it be destroyed. However, media groups have requested the patrol car video along with other information about the arrest, and the attorney general’s office has ruled that some of this information should be released under the public information act and that the judge didn't have discretion to withhold the video.

Now Travis has taken matters into his own hands, filing a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas attorney general’s office in an attempt to prevent the video’s release. Travis is asking for $100,000 and a declaratory judgment that no information requested about his arrest will be released.

Travis pleaded guilty in January to driving while intoxicated and was sentenced to two years' probation, a $2,000 fine and a 180-day suspended jail sentence. He was also ordered to spend at least 30 days at an alcohol treatment facility, complete 100 hours of community service and use an ignition interlock device (IID) during his probation.

There are many lessons here. The first and most obvious is that you should never drink and drive while intoxicated. You should definitely not drive drunk if you’re famous. If you’re rich, maybe think about paying someone to drive you around. And finally, always wear clothes--you never know when you’ll end up on camera.