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Do To-Go Alcohol Sales Conflict with Open Container Laws?The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that restaurants are allowed to operate in Texas. The recent decision to close bars amid concerns about spreading the coronavirus has received attention, including protests by bar owners and employees. Texas had earlier enacted another change to how alcohol is sold when it allowed to-go alcohol sales from restaurants. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the waiver for to-go alcohol sales in order to help restaurants that could no longer serve dine-in customers. He has said that he will consider continuing the practice after the pandemic is over because of its popularity. However, to-go alcohol sales can potentially lead to drivers violating the open alcohol container laws and a charge of driving while intoxicated if they are not careful.

How Do To-Go Sales Work?

The waiver for to-go alcohol sales allows customers to purchase an alcoholic beverage as a carry-out order as long as:

  • They are purchasing the beverage along with food
  • The alcohol is in a sealed container while it is being transported

With the new rule, restaurants have been able to sell beer, wine, and kits to make your own mixed drinks at home. Despite the name, to-go alcohol sales do not allow you to take an alcoholic beverage in a to-go cup as you would with a non-alcoholic beverage.

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Possessing a Weapon During DWI Leads to Additional ChargeMany Texas residents have gone through the required steps in order to receive a license to carry (LTC) a firearm. The process involves submitting an application, taking state-approved training courses, and showing that their record is clear of any recent criminal charges. With an LTC, residents are allowed to carry an open or concealed weapon in most public places. However, legal gun possession can become a crime if you are being charged with committing another criminal offense at the same time, such as driving while intoxicated.

Unlawful Carrying of Weapon

Let us say that you have an LTC and are driving with your weapon either on your person or somewhere in the vehicle. A police officer stops you and, after observing your behavior, decides to arrest you on suspicion of DWI. The officer finds your weapon while searching your body or vehicle. Under Texas law, you may now receive an additional charge of unlawful carrying of a weapon, which is a Class A misdemeanor. How can you be unlawfully carrying your weapon when you have a valid LTC? Texas law states that it is unlawful to carry a weapon while committing a criminal offense, such as a robbery, assault, or, in this case, driving while intoxicated. The same weapon charge may apply if you are caught driving with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle.

What Is Your Defense?

One issue to consider if you have been charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon during a DWI arrest is whether the police officer was conducting an illegal search when they discovered the weapon. Just because the officer suspects you of DWI does not give them the right to conduct a search without a warrant.

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What Does ‘No Refusal’ Mean with Texas DWI LawLaw enforcement departments across Texas are currently going through their longest “no refusal” period of the year for people suspected of driving while intoxicated. “No refusal” initiatives usually take place during holiday weekends, but many departments consider Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day to be one long “no refusal” period. Law enforcement promotes “no refusal” as a time when drivers suspected of DWI will not be allowed to refuse a sobriety test. It is somewhat misleading to say that departments designate “no refusal” periods, and explaining why can help you better understand your rights during a DWI stop:

  1. You Can Refuse But With Legal Consequences: Firstly, “no refusal” refers to only blood and breath tests used to measure your blood alcohol concentration and not field tests of your balance or gaze. Secondly, you can refuse a sobriety test without consequence if you are not under arrest. Finally, you can still refuse a sobriety test after your arrest, though your driver’s license will be suspended and the officer will likely request a warrant to obtain your blood sample. Resisting a blood test after a warrant could lead to additional criminal charges.
  2. The Law Does Not Change During “No Refusal” Initiatives: Texas law enforcement always has the authority to require DWI suspects to comply with breath or blood testing because of the state's implied consent law. The difference during a “no refusal” period is that the police officers put greater emphasis on catching drunk drivers and have more resources at their disposal to ensure that they can obtain a test sample in a timely manner. Judges are on call to review affidavits for warrants during the late-night hours when DWI arrests usually occur. Nurses are available at the station to draw blood samples.
  3. “No Refusal” Is About Awareness and Prevention: Why do law enforcement departments publicize “no refusal” initiatives when the same DWI laws are always in effect? They are trying to deter people from driving drunk or under the influence of drugs during times of the year when DWI arrests are most prevalent. Many people celebrate holidays by drinking alcohol at parties, followed by driving themselves home. The goal is to change people’s decisions to drive drunk by reminding them of the risk of being arrested.

Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Attorney

Being charged with DWI can put a damper on your holidays, but do not assume that it means you will be convicted. A San Antonio DWI defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock will work to beat your charge or get it dismissed. To schedule a free consultation, call 888-726-5625.

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Deferred Adjudication Now Available to DWI DefendantsA new law went into effect in Texas on Sept. 1 that allows people who committed driving while intoxicated for the first time to receive deferred adjudication. People who plead guilty to DWI and complete their probation can prevent a conviction from appearing on their public criminal record. However, a subsequent DWI charge would still be treated as a second DWI offense in court. The deferred adjudication law is seen as an alternative to full prosecution for people who made a one-time poor decision, such as underage drinkers or people driving home after a holiday family dinner.

Who Qualifies?

As previously mentioned, deferred adjudication is available to DWI defendants if they have never been previously convicted for DWI. Also, this option is unavailable if the DWI incident occurred before the law was enacted on Sept. 1. The judge will decide whether deferred adjudication is appropriate given the circumstances of the case. You may be denied deferred adjudication if:

  • Your blood alcohol concentration level was 0.16 or greater.
  • Someone was injured or killed during the DWI incident.
  • You have a commercial driver’s license.

A person accused of more serious DWI charges may not be deserving in the court’s eyes of a reduced punishment. The court wants to be confident that you pose little risk of repeating your mistake by driving while intoxicated again.

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Texas Axing Driver Responsibility Program, Raising DWI FinesTexas is ending its controversial Driver Responsibility Program that requires an annual surcharge for people convicted for driving violations, including driving while intoxicated. Statistics suggest that more than 1 million Texas drivers will be eligible to regain their driver’s licenses – some immediately and some when the program officially ends on Sept. 1. Civil liberties advocates have criticized the program for disproportionately affecting low-income traffic offenders. However, the news is not completely positive for people facing DWI charges. In exchange for eliminating the Driver Responsibility Program, Texas is increasing its fines for people convicted of DWI.

Driver Responsibility Program

Texas enacted the Driver Responsibility Program in 2003 to charge an additional fee beyond the fine charged upon conviction for a traffic violation. Drivers whose licenses were suspended must pay an annual surcharge to the Texas Department of Public Safety for three years in order to regain their licenses. For DWI convictions, the annual surcharge was:

  • $1,000 for a first offense;
  • $1,500 for a second offense; and
  • $2,000 for DWI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 or greater.

The Austin Community Law Center had filed a lawsuit against Texas, claiming that the program placed too great of a financial burden on people with low incomes. Many Texas residents either did not understand or could not afford the surcharges and were left without a driver’s license as a result. Texas will wipe out the remaining surcharges on Sept. 1, and drivers will be able to reinstate their licenses if they pay the reinstatement fee and resolve any issues that are not related to the Driver Responsibility Program.

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Office

Bexar County

In the historic King William District

1011 S. Alamo,
San Antonio, Texas 78210
210-226-0965
888-726-5625 Toll Free
210-226-7540

Office

Guadalupe County

109 Court Street,
Seguin, Texas 78155
830-372-1522
888-726-5625 Toll Free