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Austin Police Officer lied about circumstances of an arrest – criminal charges may be coming

The Austin American Statesman carried a good article detailing that acting Austin Police Chief Cathy Ellison fired an officer Tuesday after she said the officer lied about the circumstances of an arrest that led to a man’s conviction.

Travis County Assistant District Attorney Patty Robertson said Learmonth remains under a criminal investigation.

According to the disciplinary memo, Learmonth stopped a car Smith was driving and arrested and charged him with possession of drug paraphernalia and drug possession. He also arrested and charged Smith’s female passenger with tampering with evidence.

Internal affairs looked into the case, and Learmonth admitted during an interview with investigators that he had lied in his police report, according to the memo.

He also falsely wrote in reports that the female passenger tried to destroy evidence, an action that Learmonth’s patrol car video shows she never did.

“Officer Learmonth falsified his report and probable cause affidavits to bolster the charges,” the memo said. “He intentionally and knowingly placed false information in these documents, knowing it was unlawful to do so.”

The memo said that Learmonth’s actions were reported by local media, which discredited the department and that his actions “are unethical and taint the entire justice system.”

Learmonth’s credibility, will certainly be affected for all pending cases for which he participated.

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Search Warrant for your blood is APDs latest tool for DWIs

The Austin American Statesman ran a nice story on APD’s new tool for getting evidence against folks suspected of DWI.

If you are stopped for DWI, and you have a prior conviction within the last 5 years, are in an accident, have two or more prior convictions, had a child in the car, or suspect if you fail the attitude test, the officer can now go to a Magistrate and request a search warrant for your blood. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sobriety (DWI) Checkpoints are illegal, but is there a local agency ignoring that?

The Williamson County Attorney’s office is investigating a complaint of an illegal sobriety checkpoint near Interstate 35 last month.

A woman said people appearing to be police officers stopped her at about 11 p.m. Jan. 20 along on the westbound access road of FM 1431 at I-35 in Round Rock, County Attorney Jana Duty said.

While the County Attorney is treating this as a fake sobriety checkpoint, merely because the relevant agencies are denying that they did it, I am not so sure.

The men, claiming to be police officers, pulled over several cars Jan. 20 at I-35 and 1431, near the new Ikea store in Round Rock.

It was about 11 p.m. on Jan. 20 when at least one woman was pulled over by two men claiming to be police officers.

The witness reported that two police cars, one with lights on top and one unmarked, had closed a lane of traffic on FM 1431 and had stopped three to four cars. A man who said he was a police officer approached the woman’s car and told her the stop was a checkpoint to search for drunk drivers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Austin Police releases list of bars with most DWIs

Every time a person is arrested for drinking and driving, they’re asked where they were drinking. In the last year, two bars moved to the top of the list, and both of them are on 4th Street.

In 2006, two bars, Rain and Cedar Street, tied for the most DWI arrests, according to data from the Austin Police Department. Both are located in the Warehouse District, and they’re right across the street from each other.

Other bars on the list include the Blind Pig, the Yellow Rose, Club Carnaval, the Library, Oil Can Harry’s, Club Rodeo, Spill, and Sherlock’s.

The DWI Task Force has been extremely busy since doubling its manpower in March 2006.

“We’re doing what the TABC and APD asks of us,” said the owner of Rain in a statement to KVUE. “We put our employees through TABC certification. We offer vouchers for free rides. We give away plenty of water. We are doing everything we are capable of but apparently we are going to ramp that up a little bit.”

What is deceiving about this list is that, more often than not, a person when asked where they have been drinking, only lists the last place they drink. They don’t list all the other places they went before going to the last bar. In most cases, the police officer merely asks the person “where have you been drinking?” Then, the person names the last bar from which they just left, leaving out the name of all the other bars they visited. Consequently, as with all statistics, the devil is in the details.

Further, there statistics don’t address how many of the people arrested for drunk driving were actually convicted of DWI.

Be warned, the APD DWI Task Force will be out in full force on Super Bowl weekend.

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One cities high tech approach to fighting DWI….can Austin be too far behind?

Police in Fresno, California are throwing up roadblocks, conducting stakeouts and using night-vision goggles, satellite tracking devices and video cameras in an extraordinary crackdown aimed not at terrorists or drug lords, but at drunken drivers.

The muscular tactics have made Fresno one of the toughest cities in America for those who dare to get behind the wheel after drinking. Read the rest of this entry »

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University of Texas Police are making more DWI arrests

In my opinion, the University of Texas Police are losing sight of their main purpose of protecting UT property and UT students. When I attended UT, you never heard of UT police making DWI arrests. Now, UT police are making a large number of arrests…and more and more each year.

To most folk’s surpirise, more and more of these arrests are not being made on campus. Most folks don’t realize that UT police have jurisdiction to make arrests in any county that the University owns property. What that means is that a UT police officer basically has statewide jurisdiction. Read the rest of this entry »

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Another bad apple at Austin Police Department fired for use of force

An Austin police officer accused of using excessive force against a man with mental retardation in July was fired on Thursday.

Also, three of Officer Gary Griffin’s supervisors were disciplined for the way they reviewed the July 1 incident. Austin police Cmdr. Michael Nyert and Lt. Deborah Sawyer were suspended for one day, while Cpl. Andy Haynes was suspended for three days. Read the rest of this entry »

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Travis County Sheriff’s Office is ramping up their DWI enforcement

Travis County Sheriff Deputies will be out in full force looking for folks taht are drinking and driving during the holiday season.

Experts say there are more alcohol-related traffic deaths during December and January than any other time of the year. That’s why the Sheriff’s Office says they are kicking off the Travis County DWI campaign.

The message is this: “There is no tolerance. If you drink, you will go to jail,” according to Deputy Juan Arispe.

What amazes me about statements like that from Deputy Arispe, is that drinking and driving is NOT AGAINST THE LAW, just so you don’t drink to the level of intoxication. (if you are at least 21 years of age) Read the rest of this entry »

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Unlicensed Drivers are clogging the Travis County court docket

An increasing number of Texans are being caught driving with invalid or suspended driver’s licenses. So many, in fact, that they are clogging the state’s misdemeanor court system, officials say. Some say it’s the result of a three-year-old state law.

Prosecutors from Travis, Hays and Williamson counties say they have seen the number of such cases, which were already rising because of population growth, take a steep jump in the past couple of years. In Williamson County, where the number of cases has grown to more than one-third of all misdemeanors, court officials created a docket specifically for them this month. Read the rest of this entry »

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Texas Joins National Drunk Driving Crackdown

This Labor Day weekend, millions of Texas motorists will be enjoying their last summer road trip.

Thanks to state and local law enforcement, they’ll be in good company.

State troopers and local law enforcement officers throughout Texas are stepping up enforcement of the state’s DWI laws as part of a national effort to reduce alcohol-related traffic fatalities. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement organizations to get drunk drivers off the road. Read the rest of this entry »

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