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Travis County Alcohol-related accidents increase this year

Sheriff’s office says increase largest in eastern part of county.

Alcohol-related traffic crashes are up 53 percent in Travis County from this time last year, according to the sheriff’s office.

The increase is sharpest in the eastern part of the county, which is growing quickly as subdivisions and industry move onto relatively inexpensive land. There, alcohol-related wrecks are up 111 percent, according to the sheriff’s office, increasing from 44 incidents a year ago to 93 this year.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Roger Wade said no detailed studies of the increase have been done, but he said the likely reason for it is a growing population and more drivers.

“In the old days, you’d be driving down the road at 2 a.m., and it’d be empty, so there wouldn’t be much chance of hitting someone,” Wade said.

The statistics come as the sheriff’s office is asking for more patrol officers.

In his annual budget request, Sheriff Greg Hamilton has asked county commissioners for 10 more officers. That would cost about $800,000 the first year, including vehicles and equipment, and about $650,000 a year after that, Wade said.

The office has about 130 patrol officers who cover about 750 square miles, Wade said.

Hamilton told the commissioners that additional officers would help not only with the documented increase in alcohol-related crashes but also with an increase in aggressive driving that he and his officers have observed.

Click here for the Full Story in the Austin American Statesman

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It’s last call for smokers

At 12:01 a.m. Thursday, city’s ban will apply to almost all establishments.

Across Austin this week — and just outside it — restaurants and bars, bowling alleys and pool halls are bracing for the impact of the smoking ban that voters narrowly approved in May.

“We are going to do our best to obey the spirit of the law,” said Joseph Tait, the owner of Lovejoy’s Tap Room and Brewery, a downtown bar.

He said he would post no-smoking signs and remove ashtrays. At a staff meeting Wednesday, he instructed workers to ask patrons who light up to put out their cigarettes; if they persist, they won’t be served; if they get belligerent, the staff will call 911.

However, the National Restaurant Association, in a 2004 study partly funded by the Philip Morris company, found that restaurant sales decline significantly when counties implement 100 percent smoking bans in dining and bar areas. Read the rest of this entry »

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Texas Joins the Nation in Crackdown on Drunk Driving; Law Enforcement Agencies Statewide To Participate

With Labor Day and the last surge of summer road trips just two weeks away, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced today that Texas will be part of a coast-to-coast effort to remove drunk drivers from the nation’s streets and highways. Between August 19 and September 5, state troopers and thousands of local law enforcement officers will be stepping up enforcement of the state’s DWI laws.

“We’re putting drivers on notice: if you drink and drive during the upcoming Labor Day holiday, you’re asking for trouble,” said Steve Simmons, TxDOT’s Deputy Executive Director. “TxDOT is joining the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement organizations statewide to get drunk drivers off the road.”

“The national crackdown is a comprehensive impaired driving prevention effort focused on highly visible enforcement, public awareness, and paid media to deter impaired driving,” said Georgia S. Chakiris, regional administrator for NHTSA. “Travelers in Texas and across the nation will see plenty of officers getting impaired drivers out from behind the wheel and into jail.”

Click here for the Full Story in the Business Wire

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The ABA recognizes that defending clients charged with drunken driving has evolved into a more complex and specialized field.

The changes in the DWI practice track the ever-more sophisticated technology used to detect impaired drivers and a cultural shift that has raised the severtity of punishment and imposed a stigma on those arrested.
As the stakes increase, defense attorneys need detailed knowledge of how Breathalyzers work, about the physiology of the human body, and about the intricacies of field sobriety tests.

“The DUI bar today is much more specialized. Now, it’s all about physics, chemistry, biophysics—scientific evidence that most lawyers aren’t very good at naturally until they’re well-trained in it,” says Lawrence Taylor, principal of a Southern California DUI defense firm that bears his name.

But Taylor believes the public’s rush to fix the country’s drunken driving problem has created what he calls a “DUI exception to the Constitution.” He argues that in as many as a third of all DUI arrests, the driver is innocent of the charge.

He notes the stigma of merely being arrested for DUI can be severe. The defendant may face loss of a job, loss of status in the community and even loss of child custody if in the midst of a divorce or custody fight.

Whether attacking the evidence or supporting it, attorneys must have an understanding of it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an arm of the Transportation Department, has adopted three standard field sobriety tests. Some states now use the NHTSA tests, while others allow police officers to use whatever tests they see fit to measure whether someone stopped for suspicion of DUI is intoxicated

Now, more than ever, it is important to ask if your lawyer has had any specialized training in the proper administration of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. If he has, he can better evaluate your performance and the performance of the officer administering the tests.

I have had such training.

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