Friday, May 24, 2013

Study Shows DWI Surcharge Law to be Ineffective

A study by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition revealed that the percentage of fatal DWI accidents in Texas has increased over the last decade, from 26 percent in 2003 to 34 percent in 2011. This shocking statistic is despite the fact that in 2003 Texas passed its Driver Responsibility Law, legislation that punishes convicted drunk drivers with heavy fines. Now legislators are trying to end the law, but many citizens still support it. 

Why End It?
Many Texans feel the law is fair. Those who choose to drive while intoxicated should pay the price. Additionally, the fines collected were intended to benefit the state by helping to fund state highway projects and hospital trauma care.
However, many who oppose the legislation say the study speaks for itself. DWI accidents have not decreased since passing the Driver Responsibility Law. Many say the law means well, but doesn't address the problem. More should be done to prevent DWI accidents instead of a law that only punishes after a tragic accident.

Another problem is that people are not paying. Prosecutors say they can't handle the case load created by the those owing the fines. According to the state, 60 percent of those owing have not paid. That's a total of $1.7 billion owed to Texas. That also means the highways and hospitals that were supposed to get extra funding only saw a small amount of money. Critics of the legislation say the law has no benefits and creates a backlog of cases for prosecutors. Even Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), who co-authored the law, says it's not working.

The Solution? 
As of right now, there's no state law proposed that would replace the Driver Responsibility Law. The solution is just not that simple. A lot of suggestions are being discussed, including an additional alcohol and tobacco tax. Many agree the solution must include prevention and more intervention programs for offenders. The goal should be to reduce fatal accidents, not only punish those responsible after-the-fact. We'll keep a close watch as Texas representatives debate this law and its alternative.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The New DWI DIVERT Program in Harris County, Texas

A new DWI intervention program has been created here in Harris County - one that offers first time DWI defendants a chance to keep their record clean. How will it do that? By offering to delay their trial for a year while they undergo an intense treatment program that, if completed, will result in no conviction being placed on their record. This is simply DIVERT reincarnate.  If you recall, current Harris County District Attorney, Mike Anderson said that he would abolish DIVERT.  He certainly did do that…for 3 months!  The DIVERT name has been abolished, but the program looks to be same with some new wrinkles. I welcome this program back with open arms, but until I see the new contract I am skeptical that it will be any different.
I know what you're probably thinking, "Great! Just what Harris County needs - a program that lets drunk drivers stay on the road." If so, let me reassure you that that's not the case. Why not? Because of the following safeguards:
  1. There's a screening process - This is not an automatic offer to all first-time defendents. For example if the incident involved a death, the defendent is automatically ineligible for the program. For the rest, there is a screening process. If they pass the screening, then the program is offered as a possible alternative - not before.
  2. There are safeguards in place - While the goal of the program may be treatment, it's not just a counseling program. In addition to classes that deal with drug abuse and several levels of treatment, the program also does urine analyses and electronic monitoring. In other words, it's not just show up for counseling/therapy sessions and go about your life as you please the rest of the time. There are accountability measures in place.
  3. There are no second chances - And finally, once the defendant is in the program he/she is given one chance to succeed and one chance only. Any violations and he's out, without the opportunity to re-enter; and his trial will continue as planned.

So why is this program being offered? With it costing about one-fifth of what a trial costs, money is certainly a part of it. But the bigger reason is the hope of preventing future DWIs. Melissa Munoz, with the district attorney's office and the one in charge of the program, probably said it best when she said:

We are trying to get people who are in need of assistance and need help with their alcohol and their drug abuse problems. .... we're taking as many measures as we can to make sure that [they] .... get the help that they need.
In other words, the hope is that if we can help people get the treatment they need early on, there will be fewer DWIs down the road. And that's a goal that's worth working toward

Friday, May 10, 2013

As Summer Arrives, DWI Cases Will Follow

I'm looking at the calendar for June and can't help shaking my head. I know what's coming. Not only will we have hotter weather with the beginning of summer, but there are some huge special events scheduled for the Houston area that will almost certainly bring a lot more DWI arrests.
To get things going, of course, there's Memorial Day weekend. While Memorial Day itself is observed on Monday, May 27, lots of activities are happening during the weekend:
  • The Astros are playing the Colorado Rockies at Minute Maid Park.
  • Soccer lovers have Memorial Day Cup Houston 2013 on Saturday and Sunday.
  • And the Memorial Weekend Music Festival will fill the Reliant Arena.

That's naming just a few events, but they all have one thing in common: a lot of sports fans and music lovers will quench their thirst with a few icy beers — and then some of them will get behind the wheel and drive home.

Let's look ahead to June:
  • The Caribbean Heritage Month Festival occurs the first Saturday of the month on June 1 — native music, cultural dancing, and authentic foods — a good time for lots of people.
  • June 19 brings the 'Juneteenth' African-American heritage celebration (the 19th was the historic day Texas found out about President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation) to the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park where crowds will enjoy blues, gospel and jazz.
  • And there's Pride Houston on June 22, which is the biggest LGBT event in the Southwest, drawing about 1,000 Houston Pride Parade participants and about 150,000 spectators.

Again, the combination of what will surely be hot Houston temperatures with thirsty crowds tells me my phone is likely to ring more often when some people decide — incorrectly — that they are OK to climb behind the wheel after a day (or a night) of chilling out with some nice chilly brews. The sight of flashing lights in your rear-view mirror would sure put a chill on an otherwise fun event.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Drunk Driving is Serious Even for First Time Offenders

Drunk Driving is a serious matter for any driver. It's costly, can harm your career and lifestyle and comes with heavy fines. However, while repeat offenders face stiffer penalties, driving while intoxicated is a serious offense even if you are a first time offender.

In fact, a first time offender faces many of the same penalties as a repeat offender such as the loss of a driver's license, the possibility of alcohol counseling if deemed necessary, probation and even jail time depending on the outcome of your actions, higher insurance costs and a yearly charge known as a driver's license surcharge, which costs $1,000 and is payable for three years. It doesn't matter what state you're from since the legal limit is .08 or higher in all states and is a class B misdemeanor. For a blood alcohol level above .15, the penalties are stiffer and is now considered a class A misdemeanor.

If you have been accused of driving while intoxicated, you need the help of a defense lawyer that specializes in this type of area. Not only can you sometimes get the charges reduced but in some cases, the charges can be dropped with the right defense attorney.

There's no reason to feel that your situation is hopeless because success stories are a part of many of our case outcomes. We work tirelessly to ensure that you get the best representation possible so that your results are favorable or at the very least, better than without having the right team on your side.

If you have been accused of drunk driving then we will ensure that you get the help you need. Remember that the burden of proof is on the prosecution and we have the tools to make sure your outcome is better than expected.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Federal IID Bill Could Affect Texas DWI Law

The Drunk Driving Repeat Offender Prevention Act (DDROP), proposed by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg this past December, could affect the way DWIs are punished in all 50 states. While states are not required to adopt the legislation, if passed the law says the federal government could withhold federal transportation funding from them. This same tactic was successfully used by Lautenberg to get all 50 states to move their drinking ages to 21 and to lower their minimum blood alcohol concentration levels to 0.08. If passed, it's likely Texas will comply. How will this new legislation affect Texas DWI Law?

What's an IID?
DDROP requires that all drivers convicted of drunk driving have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in their vehicle for at least six months. An IID is essentially a small breath analyzer that interacts with a car's ignition. They are sometimes referred to as a "deep-lung breath analysis mechanism" or a "breath alcohol ignition interlock device." The device requires the driver to blow into a straw before the car will start. The IID measures the driver's blood alcohol level and, based on the result, either allows the car to start or prevents the intoxicated driver from driving.

How Effective are IIDs?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have studied the effectiveness of IIDs and have found them to be effective. They found IIDs reduce repeat DWI arrests by 73 percent. 

How Does the Bill Affect Texas?
Texas already uses IIDs, but it's usually up to the judge's discretion. There are some situations where it is mandatory, such as if it's a person's second offense or if the defendant is under 21. Under DDROP, every DWI conviction would require the use of an IID regardless of whether it was a first offense, if someone was hurt or killed, what the driver's blood alcohol level was or any other factors.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other advocacy groups are pushing this legislation hard. Currently, only 10 states have IID requirements that meet DDROP standards. Law enforcement estimates it would cost the state $7 to $12 million to monitor the IIDs required under the new legislation. However, Texas is a large state with thousands of miles of roadways. The financial implications of not complying, and losing federal transportation money, could prove to be greater than non-compliance. Thus, it's likely Texas will adopt DDROP if the Senate and House pass it.

The legislation is currently in the House. We'll keep a close watch on how it develops. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

There are defenses against a DWI blood alcohol level

Aside from a breathalyzer test most accused DWI offenders are given a blood test at the police station. There are a number of factors to consider when a blood sample is taken from an accused DWI driver.
First, your skin must be sterilized with something other than alcohol. As the needle is pushed through the skin it may catch some of the surface alcohol. This small detail can cause a false positive when there is none.
Secondly, was the person drawing the blood following procedures? How experienced was the health care worker.

Next, when the lab took the sample were there enough anticoagulants and preservatives in the vial? If not there could be a chance for the blood to ferment and make its own alcohol. This error could also cause a false positive.

Additionally, mistakes can be made all along the process of the blood draw. Was the sample labeled properly? Could it have been mixed up with another person's blood? After the blood was taken from your body was it stored properly? Is there a written record of everyone who had access to the blood?
Lastly, alcohol takes time to be absorbed by the body. Every one's blood circulation system is unique and absorbs alcohol differently. Your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) may not have been high when you were driving but, as time passed your system may have absorbed the alcohol causing an altered BAC reading than when you were behind the wheel.

If you are charged with a DWI and a blood test or BAC test is taken you need an attorney. The attorneys at The Martinez Law firm have years of experience in defending DWI cases. It is imperative that you have a strong and knowledgeable voice in the legal arena. Don't walk into court alone, talk to one of the attorneys at the Martinez Law Firm

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Getting Convicted for a Drunk Driving Charge is no Joke

In the past, drunk driving was treated just like a traffic stop. These days, driving while intoxicated is taken much more seriously and is not tolerated. M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and other anti drunk driving organizations have had a major impact on how DUI's are treated. M.A.D.D. played a major role in the decision that congress passed to drop the legal blood alcohol limit from .10 to .08.

Nobody can ever blame the people who dedicate their lives to fight drunk drivers. On March 30, 2013, in Nevada, a California family from Los Angeles lost five family members because of a drunk driver on Interstate 15. The drunk driver crashed into the back of the family van causing it to spin around and overturn. Four adults and one teenage girl were ejected from the van and pronounced deceased at the scene. A woman and a teenage boy survived and left the scene in critical condition. Occurrences like this are the reasons that the law takes DWI charges so seriously. With all of that said, nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. Making bad decisions is a part of life, and most of us learn from our mistakes. Sometimes, we choose to learn the hard way. Besides hurting other drivers while drinking and driving, a DWI charge can have a major impact on your life. Future career choices that you may want to peruse are jeopardized. A conviction can also be charged as a felony in certain circumstances . Driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated is no joke and should never be taken as something minor.

If you were arrested for drunk driving, it does not necessarily mean that you were guilty of the crime. Most people assume that there is no defense against a DWI charge. They go on ahead and plead guilty to the crime, and accept the conviction. They do not even take the time to view their arrest video with their attorney.

If you have been charged with a DWI, you will want to get legal representation as soon as possible. Getting convicted for drunk driving can have serious consequences such as jail time, expensive fines, probation, community service, revocation of your driver’s license and other severe penalties.

It must be remembered that the prosecution must prove two things. They must prove that you were driving and that you were intoxicated. They carry the burden of proving that you are guilty of the alleged crime. The Martinez Law Firm can represent you with a strong defense strategy. Every case is different, and we will need to know all the details about your case. By hiring an experienced lawyer to represent you in court, you will get the best outcome possible.