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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.