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News Cars with Alcohol Detection Device

USA Today reports that there is proposed federal funding for alcohol detection devices in vehicles. The bill would allocate $60 million in highway safety money to the research and development of an alcohol detection device for vehicles. With this funding, the devices could be available in eight to ten years. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “alcohol detection devices would have saved 8,000 lives in 2008 if they were in cars.” This idea is really being pushed by the Ignition Interlock folks. What no one seems to want to talk about is the number of “False positives” these ignition interlocks report. Too many things, other than alcohol, are showing positive for alcohol. Examples are hand sanitizer, Deep Woods Off, and even some perfumes, just to name a few. If these folks get stranded somewhere when their car won’t start, and they won’t think it is such a good idea to have these things on their car.

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Possible New Punishment for 1st time DWI offenders – (a wolf in sheep’s clothing)

The Star-Telegram reports that Texas House bill HB 189 “would allow first time DWI offenders to receive deferred adjudication” if they complete recommended treatment and supervision. However, part of this agreement would also require these first time offenders to have ignition interlock in their vehicles. The bill has many supporters including Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Those who oppose state that local staffs would not have the resources to handle such program. There are kinds of problems with this bill. One of which is that it isn’t truly a “deferred” outcome, because this “deferment” can be used against a person in the future. My fear is that too many attorneys will take the short cut and push their clients into taking this form of punishment, when fighting the case would be in the best interest of their client. I assure you that at my office we will look at this as avenue of last resort. If it was a true “deferment” we would support it, but this is clearly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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Senators: DUI Checkpoints apps are “harmful to public safety”

Four U.S. Senators have written letters to Google, Apple and RIM asking them to stop offering apps that would help possible drunk drivers avoid the police because it is a threat to the safety of others. Several apps claim to offer a service that alerts the user when they are close to a DUI checkpoint. The only company to respond, RIM, has agreed to pull the DUI checkpoint apps from its store. It is nice to see that Google and Apple are willing to stand up to these Senators. Clearly, this is a First Amendment Issue.

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Possible Repeal of the DWI Surcharge Law

State Representative Leo Berman from Tyler filed HB 299 which, if passed, would eliminate the program that requires those charged with offenses like Driving While Intoxicated to pay the state surcharge. Senator John Whitmire of Houston filed a companion bill in the senate. The Austin American Statesman reported that almost 60 percent, or 1.2 million drivers, currently owe a surcharge for which they are either unwilling or unable to pay and this totals more than $1.1 billion. Currently, if you owe the surcharge, but cannot, or refuse, to pay it, your license will be suspended. Next, you cannot get or keep car insurance without a valid driver’s license. Folks will still drive their cars, they just won’t have a valid license or car insurance. This law was a bad law when it was passed, and it is still a bad law. Unfortunately, with the current financial situation of our State government, I am not too terribly hopeful that this repeal will actually happen.

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Austin Police Association is upset that one of it’s members, an Austin Police Officer, was treated like everyone else who has been stopped and suspected of DWI

As reported by KXAN, the Austin Police Association is upset because one of it’s member/officers was stopped for DWI, forced to do the field tests, and after providing a breath test, required to give blood and urine. Are you kidding me? This happens all the time to the ordinary citizen. They perform the Field Tests….some provide breath tests, some don’t, and then the officer gets a warrant for their blood.

To be fair, the officer did provide a breath test of .02, but I have had clients give all zeros on the breath machine, to only be served with a warrant for their blood. Further, even a representative from the Association admitted that the officer wobbled during the walk and turn test and was stopped because the officer swerved into another lane.

Also, supposedly the officer had a physical impairment with one of his eyes, and that that may have lead to more tests. Well, when my clients have physical ailments that could affect the tests, the arresting officer always claims to “take it into consideration.” Now I am not sure how they do that, because even a young man I represented that only had one leg, still got arrested after the officer assured him he would “take it in to consideration.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think this officer, after blowing .02, should have been let go, but for heaven’s sake, let’s make the rule uniform. I find it hypocritical for the Association to complain that an officer had to give blood, but support a “No Refusal” policy. Like my grandma said, “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.”

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The Austin Police Department releases the list of most frequent bars for DWIs

The Austin Police Department just released the names of the bars that reported to have the most customers arrested for DWI. I will list them below, along with the number of folks arrested at each bar. What the list doesn’t reveal is that folks could have easily gone to other bars first, and just ended their night at this specific bar. Police officers routinely ask where the person was coming from, they don’t typically ask what other bars the person might have been to. Just like all numbers, it is too easy to skew the numbers in such a way to make them appear one way, when in fact, it isn’t necessarily true. I feel sorry for the listed bars, because I am convinced that APD will target these bars for enforcement… least until the dust settles.

Here’s the list for 2009, the address and the number of motorists who reported having their last drink at the locations:

J. Blacks, 710 W. Sixth Street, 27
The Ranch, 708 W. Sixth Street, 22
Rain, 217 W. Fourth Street, 17
Maggie Mae’s, 323 E. Sixth Street, 16
Blind Pig, 317 E. Sixth Street, 16
Oilcan Harry’s, 211 W. Fourth Street, 15
Fado, 214 W. Fourth Street, 15
Pure, 419 E. Sixth Street, 13
Cedar Street, 208 W. Fourth Street, 13
Union Park, 612 W. Sixth Street, 12
Fuel Nightclub, 607 Trinity St., 12
Lavaca Street Bar, 405 Lavaca St., 12
Key Bar, 617 W. Sixth St., 12
Jackalope, 404 E. Sixth St., 12
Sherlock’s, 9012 Research Boulevard, 11
Shakespeare’s, 314 E. Sixth St., 11
Antones, 213 W. Fifth St., 11
Gingerman, 304 W. Fourth St., 10
Lucky Lounge, 209 W. Fifth St., 10
Dizzy Rooster, 306 E. Sixth, 10
The Yellow Rose, 6528 N. Lamar Blvd., 10
Charlie’s, 1301 Lavaca St., 10
Groove, 101 W. Fifth St., 10
Ace’s Lounge, 222 E. Sixth St., 9
Red Fez, 209 W. Fifth St., 9
Molotov, 719 W. Sixth St., 8
Qua, 213 W. Fourth St., 8
219 West, 219 W. Fourth St., 8
Six, 117 W. Fourth St., 8
Speakeasy, 412D Congress Ave., 8
Stubb’s, 801 Red River, 8
Little Woodrow’s, 520 W. Sixth St., 8
Eddie V’s, 301 E. Fifth St., 8

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Travis County Hospitals and Sheriff’s Department have finally figured out that Forced Blood Draws are a bad idea. When will Chief Acevedo figure it out?

The Austin American Statesman reported in today’s paper that Austin’s Hospitals and the Sheriff’s Department have informed the Austin Police Department (APD) that they will no longer collect blood for APD.

Travis County’s central booking facility had been the place where APD took their suspected DWI folks for the forced blood draw. APD would rely on the Sheriff’s nurses to do the forced blood draw. (If the person refused, they would literally strap them in a chair so that the person couldn’t move their arms, and then stick them with the needle) The Sheriff’s Department nurses stopped taking blood samples on January 1. The Sheriff’s Department has finally realized that the nurses main function should be to treat inmates, not collect evidence. Further, they are deeply concerned about having to give nurse’s overtime pay to appear in court after having been the one that draws the blood. Read the rest of this entry »

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DWI Dismissed

My client was arrested for DWI in Austin, Texas by an officer with the Austin Police Department. The officer reported that my client was stopped for speeding, swerving all over the road and driving well over the posted speed limit.

My client REFUSED the BREATH TEST, but performed the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), which he was unaware he could refuse.

The officer reported that my client had a strong odor of alcohol coming from his breath and admitted to consuming 5 beers, two Jager Bombs and Benadryl that evening. The officer said my client displayed all 6 of the possible clues of intoxication on the HGN (eye jerking) test. The officer said that my client lost balance during the instructions, turned improperly, failed to touch heel to toe and stepped off line during the Walk & Turn test. The officer further stated that my client exhibited 2 of the 4 clues on the One Leg Stand test.

We took the case to court and let the State Prosecutors know that we were going to fight. Eventually the prosecutor agreed to DISMISS THE DWI, and my client pled to a non-DWI charge. My client received deferred adjudication on the new charge, meaning that hw will excape being convicted of anything. My client will now be able to have any mention of the original DWI arrest permanently erased from his record, and we will be able to have the non-DWI charge sealed.

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Drink, Drive, Go to Jail….that is NOT the law!

Recently, the Gregg County (Longview) sheriff made the proclimation that if you drink and drive this independence day weekend – you will go to jail.

In December 2006, Gregg County commissioners approved a grant to participate in the statewide “Drink, Drive, Go To Jail” campaign with the funding being provided by the Texas Department of Transportation.

This grant provides resources necessary to conduct DWI enforcement throughout the holiday periods to increase the arrests of folks that drink and drive.

Captain Ken Hartley with the Gregg County Sheriff’s Department says; “We’d just like to remind people to drive responsibly. Don’t drink and drive. Enforcement will be out there and it’s not worth that chance and certainly not taking a chance of hurting yourself or others.”

Well, here lies the rub….it is not against the law to drink and then drive as long as two things are true: 1) you are at least 21 years of age, and 2) you are not intoxicated. I believe that the Sheriff is setting up a great argument for the fact that people are going to be arrested that don’t meet the above criteria. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tougher Punishments Will NOT Deter DWIs

University of Florida researchers have deteremined that tougher punishments may not be effective in deterring people from driving drunk.

Increasing the minimum jail time keeps few drunken drivers off the road and doesn’t significantly prevent fatal car crashes, according to the study, published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.

The researchers examined the changes in DWI laws and policies between 1976 and 2002. They also studied the rates of DWI arrests and fatal alcohol-related car crashes.

Alexander C. Wagenaar cq , lead author of the study and epidemiology professor in the UF College of Medicine, said researchers wanted to find out if stricter regulations deterred people from drinking and driving and if the number of accidents would drop in the population as a whole.

“We found out that’s not the case,” he said.

James C. Fell, director of traffic safety and enforcement programs for the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland, said on average, statistics show that a person drives under the influence 50 to 200 times before he or she is caught or gets into a crash.

I have said over and over and over, we must move our resources into education, rather than punishment. Until the powers that be, the Legislature, figures this out, they will continue to increase punishments to no avail. I was once told that the two areas that Legislators love to go home and tout, is tax cuts and being tough on crime. Unfortunately, I guess that still holds true today.

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