Recent blog posts

Have Ride-Sharing Services Decreased Texas DWI Arrests?Ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber often hail themselves for decreasing the number of crashes and arrests involving people who drive while intoxicated. Arranging for transportation through your phone makes it easier for you to get a ride home when you are too drunk to drive. Various studies have shown that metropolitan areas had decreases in DWI arrests after the ride-sharing services entered their market, but the effect is inconsistent across the different cities. Some researchers believe that the effect of ride-sharing services on DWI arrests and crashes may be overstated.

Other Factors

Researchers had a good opportunity to study the relationship between DWI arrests and ride-sharing services when Lyft and Uber temporarily left some major cities a few years ago, including Austin and San Antonio. Cities such as San Antonio did have a noticeable decrease in alcohol-related crashes when the services returned, but other cities saw little or no change. For instance, the number of DWI arrests continued to decrease in Austin after Lyft and Uber ceased operating there. Thus, researchers state that other factors may be responsible when DWI arrests decrease, such as:

  • Public education campaigns;
  • Expansions in public transportation; and
  • Societal attitudes towards drunk driving.

A Fatal Problem

Texas consistently has the highest number of alcohol-related driving fatalities in the country. The fatality total has slightly increased in Texas during recent years – from 1,323 in 2015 to 1,468 in 2017. Ride-sharing services certainly do not seem to be decreasing the number of deaths. The assumption that ride-sharing will greatly prevent drunk driving is flawed in several ways:

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Hunches Are Not Reasonable Suspicion in DWI StopsAll arrests for driving while intoxicated must start with the police officer establishing reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle. Accepted reasons to stop a driver include traffic violations or erratic driving behavior. However, officers will sometimes stop drivers on nothing more than a hunch that they are committing a DWI offense. Traffic stops based on hunches are illegal, even if the hunch ends up being correct. Any evidence that came after that illegal stop would be suppressed in court, effectively ending the prosecution’s case. There are several ways that an officer may use a hunch instead of reasonable suspicion to initiate a DWI stop:

  1. Targeting Bar and Restaurant Patrons: Many drunk drivers became intoxicated because they were at a public establishment that serves alcohol. Police officers know that there is a greater risk of DWI incidents near bars and restaurants, but they cannot stop a driver simply because they were leaving such an establishment. The driver must show signs of impairment that create reasonable suspicion that they may be intoxicated. Stopping the driver prematurely would be targeting a driver based on a presumption of guilt.
  2. Unidentified Container: Having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle is both against the law and evidence of a possible DWI incident. However, an officer may be unable to justify a stop based solely on what they guess could be an alcoholic beverage container in the vehicle. It is difficult to identify the label or contents of a container from a distance. Non-alcoholic beverages come in many of the same cans and bottles as alcohol. The officer would need to pair their observation of a possible alcohol container in the vehicle with other evidence that creates suspicion of intoxication.
  3. Not Accounting for Adverse Driving Conditions: Intoxicated drivers can draw suspicion from police officers by driving too slowly or swerving. This behavior suggests possible impairment under normal circumstances, but adverse driving conditions can also be a reasonable explanation. For instance, there is a difference between driving slowly on a clear night and during heavy rainfall. With visibility decreased and the road slick, driving below the speed limit could be the responsible decision given the conditions. It should be a more likely explanation for the officer than suspecting that the driver is intoxicated.

Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Attorney

Too many police officers and prosecutors believe that the resulting evidence of DWI justifies a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion. A San Antonio DWI defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock can get your DWI charges dismissed if they were based on an illegal stop. Schedule a free consultation by calling 888-726-5625.

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When Police, Hospitals Disagree on Search ConsentTexas has an implied consent law that states that a licensed driver has consented to chemical testing if a police officer has probable cause to believe that they have been driving while intoxicated. The law applies even when the suspect is unconscious and unable to give consent. When a DWI suspect is injured in an incident, the officer will often collect a blood sample from the suspect at the hospital, where there is a trained staff available to draw the sample. However, some hospitals have a policy against drawing blood from a patient who is unable to consent. This can lead to disputes between police officers trying to obtain evidence and hospital staff concerned about the patient’s privacy.

Recent Example

A nurse at a Dallas area hospital recently refused to allow police to draw blood from a DWI suspect until they presented a warrant. The male suspect had been involved in a car accident that killed two women. The man had been convicted for DWI five times previously, gotten off of probation five days earlier, and just had the ignition interlock device removed from his vehicle. A breath test showed no traces of alcohol, but the officer believed that he was intoxicated because they claim that he:

  • Had been driving the wrong way at the time of the accident;
  • Said he had been taking Xanax;
  • Had bloodshot eyes; and
  • Spoke rapidly.

Police arrested the man, who allegedly agreed to a blood test. After the suspect was taken to a hospital, a nurse told the officer that they could not do a legal blood draw on the suspect, claiming that the suspect could not consent to the test because he was intoxicated. The officer obtained a warrant to draw the blood sample from the suspect, who has been charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter.

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When to Consider a Plea Bargain for Your DWI CaseThe preferred strategy when you have been charged with driving while intoxicated is to try to receive a “not guilty” verdict or to get the charge dismissed. In some cases, your best strategy is to minimize the penalties you receive. When a conviction seems unavoidable, your DWI defense attorney can negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors, in which you agree to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or lesser penalty. Plea bargaining should be a last resort after evaluating your case and determining how you can contest the charge. A plea bargain can still result in severe consequences.

The Reality of Plea Bargains

Your best-case scenario in plea bargaining with prosecutors would be to get your DWI charge reduced to reckless driving, obstruction of a highway or public intoxication. These charges could allow you to avoid jail time and a driver’s license suspension. However, prosecutors are more likely to offer lesser penalties in exchange for pleading guilty to DWI. When deciding whether to offer a plea bargain, prosecutors will consider:

  • Your previous criminal record, or lack thereof;
  • How much greater they claim your blood alcohol concentration was than the 0.08 legal limit;
  • Whether there was a crash or injuries involved in the incident; and
  • The conduct of yourself and the police officer during your arrest.

A first-time DWI conviction in Texas is a class B misdemeanor, with a minimum of 72 hours in jail and a driver’s license suspension of at least 90 days.

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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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Bexar County

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