DWI


Will Houston, Texas DWI Penalties Change in 2016?

DWI

In Houston, DWI laws are based on Texas state law rather than local law. Although Texas DWI laws have been amended many times over the years (and generally become tougher with each revision), it is difficult to say with a high degree of certainty what the Texas legislature will decide to do in 2016. Nevertheless, an understanding of the history of Texas DWI law and an awareness of the current local political environment does make it possible to offer a few educated guesses.

Current Texas DWI Penalties

Currently, Texas imposes a variety of penalties on DUI offenders including:

  • Jail time
  • Driver’s license suspension or revocation
  • Fines and court costs
  • Community service
  • Mandatory DWI education programs

These penalties increase dramatically for each subsequent offense – a first-time offender, for example, can expect a fine of up to $2,000, jail time of 3 to 180 days, mandatory DWI education, and a driver’s license suspension of up to two years. A third offense, by contrast, could result in a $10,000 fine and prison time of 2 to 10 years, among other penalties. Enhanced sentencing guidelines apply under certain circumstances, such as driving drunk while carrying a passenger under 15 years of age.

The Most Recent Change

In September 2015, Texas DWI law changed to allow certain first-time DWI offenders who might otherwise face a blanket suspension of their driver’s license to drive to work or to pick up children from school if they agree to purchase an ignition interlock device (IID) and have it installed on their car. Certain first-time DWI offenders will remain ineligible for this option, however, including offenders whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was at least 0.15 at the time of their arrest and offenders who were carrying a child in their car at the time of their arrest.

The MADD Demand

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a group that lobbies for tougher DWI/DUI laws, is dissatisfied with the most recent change in Texas DWI penalties. Instead, they propose that ignition interlock devices become mandatory for all first-time offenders instead of being offered as an option in exchange for limited driving privileges that are restored after a relatively brief period of a license suspension. Perhaps the Texas legislature will consider this idea in 2016.

Unfinished Business: Sobriety Checkpoints

In 2011 the Texas legislature considered but failed to approve sobriety checkpoints that would stop random motorists to check their sobriety. While most states allow sobriety checkpoints, the Texas legislature has been reluctant to allow them due to civil liberties concerns (because most drivers stopped at sobriety checkpoints are law-abiding). Perhaps 2016 will be the year that Texas finally permits this practice.

Body Cameras

One current trend in Houston that will likely accelerate in 2016 is a dramatic increase in the number of police officers wearing body cameras. Although strictly speaking, this policy does not constitute any change in DWI penalties, it does render it more likely that any irregularities in a DWI arrest can be proven in court, thereby deterring police from committing misconduct. Body cameras can also make it more likely that a DWI defendant who has been victimized by questionable arrest procedures will be in a better position to win an acquittal or plea bargain a DWI charge to a lesser offense.

If you have been charged with DWI in Houston, Texas, or if you simply need more information on Texas DWI law, pick up the phone and call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial evaluation.

Who Should I Call if I get a DWI in Houston, Texas?

DWI

If you are charged with DWI, you are likely to have very little time between your arrest and your court date to prepare an effective defense. Since the Texas criminal justice system can be harsh on an unrepresented DWI defendant, it is imperative that you contact a top-tier Houston DWI lawyer as soon as you can. Since your choice of which lawyer to represent you could turn out to be the most important factor determining the outcome of your case, nothing could be more important than knowing what qualities to look for in a DWI defense lawyer.

Affordable Value

DWI defendants looking for a criminal defense lawyer must balance two competing concerns. On one hand, selecting a lawyer who charges exorbitant legal fees to win an acquittal or a plea bargain forces the defendant to choose between his wealth and his freedom. On the other hand, selecting a “discount” lawyer could result in an inadequate defense and even unnecessary incarceration. Finding a balance between these two extremes will require you to find a DWI lawyer who offers value – affordable financial arrangements combined with skilled and committed representation.

Houston DWI defense attorney Mario Madrid, for example, represents his clients for affordable legal fees. He is willing to work with defendants who can’t afford to pay upfront by offering payment plans that are tailored to his client’s individual financial needs.

Relevant Experience

A lawyer only a few months out of law school can represent a DWI defendant, as can a lawyer who specializes in corporate mergers and has little understanding of the principles of DWI defense. To effectively fight a DWI charge, you will need a lawyer with extensive experience in criminal law. Mario Madrid has been certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and he is a member of the National College for DUI Defense. His broad experience in the Texas criminal justice system provides him with a unique perspective shared by few of his peers.

Mr. Madrid enjoyed six years of experience as a Houston criminal law judge, which provides him with an understanding of how a judge is likely to interpret and weigh evidence. His three years of experience as an Assistant District Attorney provided him with even more valuable experience in trying cases from a prosecutor’s perspective. Mr. Madrid’s experience as a prosecutor helps him to predict the prosecution’s strategy in advance and, if necessary, to effectively negotiate plea bargains that could spare a DWI defendant jail time and a criminal record.

Contact Mario Madrid Today

A good DWI lawyer can provide you with more than just an effective defense in court – he can also with the legal advice you need to accidentally avoid damaging your own case (by talking about your case to the police, for example). If you have been charged with DWI in the Houston, Texas metropolitan area, call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial evaluation of your case so that we can discuss your legal options together.

What Are DWI Surcharges In Texas?

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Texas DWI Surcharge

A common question I get as a Houston DWI Attorney is, what are surcharges and will I owe any? In Texas surcharges were established as part of the The Driver Responsibility Program which is governed by Texas Transportation Code, Chapter 708, which set up a system to assess surcharges based on certain traffic offenses that have occurred on or after September 1, 2003.

A surcharge is an administrative fee that is charged to a driver based on the convictions reported to the driver record. There are two criteria that determine if a surcharge will be assessed, they are the point system (bases on the number of traffic violations) and Conviction Based surcharges (which include DWI convictions.)

It is important to note that surcharges are in addition to all other reinstatement fees required for other administrative actions and do not replace any administrative suspension, revocation, disqualification or cancellation action that results from these same convictions. The bottom line is the State uses DWI to raise money and will get yours if you are convicted and care to ever get you license back.

Drivers convicted of DWI face the following surcharges.

  • For a first time DWI conviction the surcharge is $1,0000 for 3 years.
  • A subsequent conviction is $1,500 for 3 years.
  • A DWI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 is $2,000 for 3 years.

An arrest for DWI is an expensive proposition. A conviction for a DWI is even more expensive. If you or someone you know is need of a Houston DWI Lawyer, call Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Texas DWI Surcharge | Madrid Criminal Law

Mario Madrid on Juvenile Crime

Criminal Defense | Drugs | DWI | Video Q & A

In this video presentation, Houston lawyer for criminal defense Mario Madrid, an attorney Board Certified to practice criminal law, sheds light on his passion for fighting on behalf of his clients and winning cases, in the court of law.

One of the more interesting facets of Mario Madrid’s oration is his pride in winning cases and relieving stress related to facing the State of Texas on criminal cases from the shoulders of his clients. Especially his younger clients, many of which would rightfully be concerned with the removal of criminal and arrest records from their background.

If you need to consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney in Houston about a criminal charge you have to address in Harris County, TX, call our criminal law firm by dialing 713-877-9400, or by simply pressing the number to call us if you are viewing this page from a cell phone.

Houston DWI Lawyer Mario Madrid on Drunk Driving Charges

DWI | Video Q & A

In this video, Houston criminal defense attorney Mario Madrid takes time to discuss the common circumstances related to criminal DWI charges. He also discusses his experience getting DWI cases dismissed in court, and some of the effects of DWI arrests on the accused, and society.

If you find yourself under the pressure of an upcoming court date related to a Houston DWI criminal charge, call defense lawyer Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400 to schedule an immediate meeting at his downtown Houston office to review your case.

What is the Open Container Law?

Criminal Defense | DWI

The open container law is a legal provision that is designed to ensure the safety of the public. It can be brought into effect in a variety of circumstances that involve the consumption or possession of alcohol. Many people may think that the open container law applies only when someone is being arrested for a criminal offense of driving while intoxicated. However, the open container law can also apply to the consumption of alcohol by people in a public place or while on the grounds of certain institutions.

Why is the Open Container Law Needed?

Open container laws were put into effect in order to accomplish several specific purposes. First and foremost, open container laws are used with the safety of the general public in mind. The consumption of alcohol in a public place can have many negative effects, including dangerous behavior, fighting, criminal activities or vandalism. In this regard, open container laws seek to curb public drunkenness before it can cause such negative behaviors.

Also, open container laws apply when someone is in possession of an alcoholic beverage while operating or riding in a motor vehicle. This is done with the aim of preventing the intoxicated operation of motor vehicles on public highways, which is one of the most dangerous criminal activities in the nation. Also, intoxicated drivers are more likely to engage in violent confrontation with other drivers in the event of a vehicle collision or accident.

Open container laws are also used to ensure that a state continues to receive subsidies for transportation from the federal government. In any state that does not have an open container law on the books, the federal government can immediately rescind any subsidies that are earmarked for the cost of transportation expenses in that state. This is a very serious matter because these federal subsidies cover a great deal of the cost of highway construction and road maintenance in the state.

What Places are Exempt From the Open Container Law?

Some states and municipalities allow the possession of an open container of alcohol in specific areas and at specific times. At present, seven states do not have open container laws that apply to the consumption of alcohol in public. In Louisiana, for example, New Orleans does not prohibit the consumption of alcohol on public sidewalks and streets, but the city does prohibit such consumption in parking lots or from glass containers. Las Vegas also allows the public consumption of alcohol on certain holidays. It should be noted that, while these locations allow public consumption, they strictly enforce laws that prosecute offenses caused by drunkenness, such as disorderly conduct or engaging in argumentative disputes with law enforcement officers.

For additional information on open container laws in the state of Texas, set up an appointment with Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

What is a Field Sobriety Test?

Criminal Defense | DWI

All too often, a hardworking man or woman chooses to unwind after a long work week by going out for a few drinks, only to be pulled over by law enforcement on their way home from a bar or club. The majority of people will call a taxi cab or ask a designated driver to give them a ride; anyone who does not may be stopped and randomly tested for sobriety. A person who fails a sobriety test may face several long-lasting consequences.

A law enforcement officer may order a vehicle to stop at a sobriety checkpoint or roadblock to investigate the driver for a variety of violations. An officer will often request a driver to pull over for questioning if he drives in a manner that indicates he may be driving while intoxicated. This includes behaviors like weaving in and out of designated driving lanes or crossing the center line in a road.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

A police officer administers a field sobriety test to anyone whom he suspects of driving under the influence of alcohol. The following are the three most common field sobriety tests that were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • One-leg stand (OLS) test: A driver is required to stand in place with his arms down while he holds one foot a few inches off the ground. If he fails to do so, it may be an indication that he is intoxicated.
  • Walk-and-turn (WAT) test: A driver is asked to walk in a straight line while he places one foot directly in front of the other. By not retaining his balance, a suspect may be arrested for driving while intoxicated.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test: A police officer asks a driver to follow a moving object with his eyes. If the suspect’s eyes bounce, it may be an indication that his blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds the legal limit that is established by the government. It is possible for a person’s eye impairments to cause a false positive on this test.

Challenging the Evidence From Field Sobriety Tests

A skilled criminal defense attorney understands the defects of field sobriety tests and can identify some common errors that may occur:

  • A police officer initiated an unlawful traffic stop.
  • There is no baseline for comparing results.
  • The officer’s way of conducting the field sobriety tests was flawed.
  • The test results were inaccurate because of factors like the driver’s age and weight.

If you would like to get more information about field sobriety tests or traffic stops, schedule a free consultation with attorney Mario Madrid by calling 713-877-9400.

International Consequence of a DWI in Texas

DWI | Immigration

Having a criminal history, particularly a conviction for a DWI or DUI, can affect your travels to Canada. By having a conviction for either of these offenses, a person will become criminally inadmissible, and therefore, not allowed to enter Canada.

The Canadian Immigration Refugee Protection Act, in Section 36, lists the ways a foreign national can become criminally inadmissible into Canada. One of these ways in which a person may be refused admittance into Canada is if the individual has been convicted of an offense that has an equivalent offense in the Canadian Criminal Code.

The Texas Penal Code offense of Driving While Intoxicated is an offense that does have an equivalent offense in the Canadian Criminal Code, §253 “Operation While Impaired.” In addition, due to the Canadian offense of “Dangerous Operation of Motor Vehicles,” the problems with admissibility into Canada will remain even if someone charged with a DWI or DUI pleads guilty to a reduced charge.

There are avenues of relief for inadmissibility if an individual has been convicted of a DWI or DUI in Texas. One of these avenues is to argue against the equivalence of the Canadian and Texas offense.

An individual may also solve their admissibility problem by getting a Temporary Resident Permit. This can be done by showing a significant reason for the person to be in Canada. In addition, a person may find permanent relief from criminal inadmissibility by Criminal Rehabilitation. This permanent solution can only be done five years after all of the terms of the sentence have been completed.

Having a court date for an impending DWI charge is a serious matter. If you need to talk with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney, contact us.

Consequences of Second DWI in Texas

DWI

The Texas Legislature has implemented strict laws for individuals charged with Driving While Intoxicated. Of course any crime comes with the possibility of jail time, but DWI laws have many other consequences. Among them are a possible license suspension, surcharges, a myriad of fees and an ignition breath device placed on your automobile.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of being charged with more than one DWI the consequences increase. An example of the difference in DWI charges from other crimes are the probation conditions. If someone has for example a second theft case or second possession of marijuana case and receives community supervision (what we commonly call probation) there will be no mandatory jail time attached to the probation. However  if a judge grants community supervision to a defendant convicted of a DWI 2nd the judge shall require as a condition of community supervision that the defendant submit to not less than 72 hours of continuous confinement in county jail. That is three full days in the county jail. The sheriff cannot grant two for one credit. In addition to the jail time spent,  the individual will face up to two years probation with all of the other onerous conditions. If the defendant has a second DWI within five years of the first DWI,  the judge granting community supervision to a defendant, shall require as a condition of community supervision that the defendant submit to not less than five days of confinement in county jail along with all of the other conditions.

Obviously the best way to avoid all of this is refrain from being put in the situation. However, if you find yourself in the this unfortunate predicament it is imperative to find an attorney with an extensive knowledge of DWI laws in Texas and is trained and experienced in defending Driving While Intoxicated cases.

If you are in need of a Houston DWI Lawyer, call Houston Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Mandatory Blood Draw for DWI in Texas

DWI

Most people would agree that a forced blood draw from an individual is invasive and a violation of their civil rights. While we may all agree on this premise, under certain circumstances the State of Texas can strap you down and forcibly draw blood from you.

If you are stopped while driving and accused of DWI, you will be asked to submit to a breath test. If you refuse, your license may be suspended. If you blow over the legal limit of .08, your license may be suspended.

On what has come to be known as No Refusal Weekends, if the police obtain a search warrant from a judge it will not matter whether you refuse to submit to a breath test in a driving while intoxicated charge. The warrant allows the state to draw blood from you.

If you fall into certain categories (two prior DWIs and accidents where there are injuries to the parties)  listed in the Texas Transportation Code, the police do not need a warrant to obtain your blood. Under Texas in these circumstances the police law are given the authority draw your blood whether you consent or not.

The law is listed in the Texas Transportation Code Section 724.012 subsection b as follows:

Sec. 724.012.  TAKING OF SPECIMEN.

(b)  A peace officer shall require the taking of a specimen of the person’s breath or blood under any of the following circumstances if the officer arrests the person for an offense under Chapter 49, Penal Code, involving the operation of a motor vehicle or a watercraft and the person refuses the officer’s request to submit to the taking of a specimen voluntarily:

(1)  the person was the operator of a motor vehicle or a watercraft involved in an accident that the officer reasonably believes occurred as a result of the offense and, at the time of the arrest, the officer reasonably believes that as a direct result of the accident:

(A)  any individual has died or will die;

(B)  an individual other than the person has suffered serious bodily injury; or

(C)  an individual other than the person has suffered bodily injury and been transported to a hospital or other medical facility for medical treatment;

(2)  the offense for which the officer arrests the person is an offense under Section 49.045, Penal Code; or

(3)  at the time of the arrest, the officer possesses or receives reliable information from a credible source that the person:

(A)  has been previously convicted of or placed on community supervision for an offense under Section 49.045, 49.07, or 49.08, Penal Code, or an offense under the laws of another state containing elements substantially similar to the elements of an offense under those sections; or

(B)  on two or more occasions, has been previously convicted of or placed on community supervision for an offense under Section 49.04, 49.05, 49.06, or 49.065, Penal Code, or an offense under the laws of another state containing elements substantially similar to the elements of an offense under those sections.

(c)  The peace officer shall designate the type of specimen to be taken.

(d)  In this section, “bodily injury” and “serious bodily injury” have the meanings assigned by Section 1.07, Penal Code.

Just because your blood is drawn does not mean that you are guilty. The state always has the burden to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and it is likely that there is many issues to contest.

If you or someone you know is in need of a DWI Lawyer in Houston, call Houston DWI Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

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