DWI

Delays to Access Austin Police DWI Video Cause Problems in Court System

By Peek & Toland on September 25, 2019

As of May 1, 2019, police departments in Austin had a backlog of 2,600 videos dating back to June 2018 that still need to be turned over to prosecutors to pursue drunk driving cases. It takes an estimated ten months before this exchange of crucial evidence occurs, which results in lengthy delays in the prosecution and resolutions of DWI cases. Although the county purchased the technology two years ago to effectuate the transfer of the video within three weeks, various factors are now leading to substantial delays.

First, a police team of five full-time employees is handling a much larger number of cases than it did two years ago, but with the same amount of employees. Officials now are looking at adding light-duty officers to the existing team to chip away at the backlog of videos.

Delays to Access Austin Police DWI Video Cause Problems in Court System

Additionally, technological advances have necessitated the transmission of body camera video rather than dash camera video, which can double and triple the overall amount of video in a case. When combined with an increased number of cases, the cases are merely moving through the system more and more slowly.

Another problem is the Internet connection that the team is currently using to transmit the footage. The current connection does not permit the video footage to be sent quickly, which has law enforcement officials exploring a new location with better Internet speeds.

KVUE is now reporting that the Austin Police Department and other criminal justice officials have made some strides to address the backlog of DWI video footage. At present, the team dedicated to this task is keeping up with 1,500 pieces of new evidence and tackling the backlog of videos at a rate of about 200 cases per month. As anticipated, the police agency assigned officers currently on light-duty to assist with the project and moved employees to the District Attorney’s office for better connection rates.

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to assisting individuals in resolving their criminal charges. We know that criminal proceedings can be intimidating and overwhelming for those who are facing potential penalties for criminal charges. We will work with you to achieve the most favorable outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled criminal defense attorneys today.

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Blood Vial Recall Could Affect Thousands of DWI Cases

By Peek & Toland on September 23, 2019

A company that manufactures blood vials has recalled the vials after finding an error that could change the results of blood alcohol analysis. It is unclear how many cases are affected, as the manufacturer stated that only 300 of the lot of 240,000 vials were manufactured erroneously, and already has recovered 199 of defective vials. However, the vials in question did not contain a preservative to prevent the blood from clotting, which can result in changes to the nature of the blood alcohol over time.

The recall is likely to jeopardize thousands of drunk driving cases across the nation, including at least 7,800 Harris County cases that could have utilized the vials. The Harris County District Attorney’s office has announced that it will begin reviewing thousands of cases for evidence of clotting. If cases used the defective vials, the test results only would be correct if the tests occurred within two days, which seldom happens in Harris County. Court also may be forced to reopen drunk driving cases that already were resolved, further adding to the DWI testing backlog.

Blood Vial Recall Could Affect Thousands of DWI Cases

Local law enforcement agencies also are taking steps to remove vials subject to the recall from deputies, replacing them with non-defective vials. Both the Houston Forensic Science Center and the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science distributed kits containing vials subject to the recall.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys anticipate that many defendants will request a review of their cases to determine if a defective blood vial impacted their cases. As a result, many DWI cases could result in a retrial. The massive amount of cases that could be affected by the blood vial recall will add to the already overcrowded Harris County docket of court cases. If you or a family member is facing any criminal charges, we may be able to help.

As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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Law Shortens Period to Obtain Order of Non-Disclosure for First-Time DWI

By Peek & Toland on August 26, 2019

Over the past few years, the Texas legislature has passed legislation expanding the availability of orders of nondisclosure for some criminal offenses. An order of nondisclosure effectively prohibits public officials and their agencies from releasing information about specific criminal cases to the public. Recent changes to nondisclosure laws allow eligible individuals to seek orders of nondisclosure for first-time DWI convictions. For instance, individuals cannot get an order of nondisclosure if they were convicted of DWI as a Class A misdemeanor due to a high blood alcohol content (BAC).

There is a waiting period before individuals qualify to seek an order of nondisclosure for DWI and related offenses. These persons must wait two years from the successful completion of their sentences if the court required them to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicles for six months. If the installation of an IID was not a part of the court order, then these individuals must wait at least five years from the date that they completed their sentences.

Law Shortens Period to Obtain Order of Non-Disclosure for First-Time DWI

The most recent change to the waiting period required for an order of nondisclosure concerns individuals who receive deferred adjudication for a first-time DWI. This is a new means of resolving a first-time DWI that is newly available as a result of the 2019 legislative session. For individuals who receive deferred adjudication and otherwise qualify for an order of nondisclosure, the waiting period is somewhat different. Their waiting period expires two years from the date that they complete deferred adjudication community supervision, and the court dismisses the case. This change in the law takes effect on September 1, 2019.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including traffic-related charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. As a result, we will strive to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys.

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Open Container Laws in Texas

By Peek & Toland on July 31, 2019

Under Tex. Pen. Code § 49.031(1), an open container is any unsealed bottle, can, flask, or other receptacle that can hold alcohol. Thus, if the person has opened the container, the container is “open” for the purposes of this law. If the container is completely sealed and has never been opened, the container is not “open.”

Possessing an open container of alcohol is only illegal if it is in the passenger area of a motor vehicle and accessible to the driver, such as in the cupholder, under the driver’s seat, or in the passenger seat. The passenger area of a vehicle does not include a glove compartment or other locked storage area, the area behind the upright driver’s seat, or in the trunk of the vehicle.

Open Container Laws in Texas

To violate the Texas open container law, you do not have to be driving at the time that you possess the open container. Even if you are stopped or parked on or immediately next to a public road, you could face charges for violating the open container law. Plus, both a driver and a passenger can be charged with a violation of the law, not just the driver.

Texas law does establish a few different exceptions to the general prohibition against open containers. Passengers in taxis, buses, trains, and limos all may fall within one exception. Another exception exists for occupants in the living quarters of recreational vehicles, trailers, or motor homes.

Possession of an open container is a Class C misdemeanor under Texas law. Essentially, this offense is similar to a traffic ticket, in that you cannot face jail time if convicted. The maximum penalty that you can receive is a $500 fine. If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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Is It Possible to Seal a DWI Conviction?

By Peek & Toland on July 3, 2019

Getting an order of nondisclosure for your criminal records, or “sealing” your records, allows you to restrict these records from the view of the general public, with some exceptions for criminal justice agencies and governmental employers. An order of nondisclosure for any criminal conviction also permits you to deny that you have that criminal conviction.

Is It Possible to Seal a DWI Conviction?

Before September 1, 2017, there was no mechanism in the state of Texas for you to get an order of nondisclosure, for any DWI convictions under any circumstances. However, the Texas legislature amended the law to allow eligible individuals to apply for orders of nondisclosure for specific non-violent misdemeanors, including some DWI convictions. Individuals are not qualified to seek an order of nondisclosure until two years have passed since they completed their sentence, including any period of community supervision, and in some cases, five years. Additionally, individuals must meet the following requirements to be eligible for an order of nondisclosure for a DWI conviction:

  • They must never have been on deferred adjudication community supervision or probation for another offense, other than a traffic offense punishable only by fine.
  • They have paid all fines, court costs, and restitution that the court ordered.
  • It has been at least two years since they completed their sentences, including the successful completion of all conditions of their sentences for six months and the successful completion of at least six months of driving only with an ignition interlock device.
  •  The DWI offense did not result in an accident that involved another person, including any passengers.

Some DWI convictions, however, remain ineligible for sealing or an order of nondisclosure. These include convictions for possession or consumption of or selling alcohol to minors, driving while intoxicated with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher, flying or boating while intoxicated, and operating an amusement park while intoxicated. Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration law matter. The Texas criminal defense attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the complicated criminal justice system and get the relief that you need. Take the first step today, and to work toward protecting your future. Contact our office today at and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas criminal defense lawyers.

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DWI with a Child Passenger

By Peek & Toland on June 25, 2019

Penalties for DWI are harsh in the state of Texas, but some DWI cases involve aggravating circumstances that can result in separate criminal charges or enhanced penalties. Tex. Pen. Code § 49.045 provides for a separate criminal offense when individuals commit DWI with a passenger who is under the age of 15. Intoxication for DWI can mean either having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more or having consumed alcohol or drugs to the point that you do not have regular usage of your mental or physical faculties. You can face charges for this offense even if no one, including the child passenger, was injured during the incident.

DWI with a Child Passenger

In some cases, individuals will be unable to drive while their DWI with a child passenger case is pending. In other cases, as a condition of your bond, the court may require you to install and maintain an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, at your own cost. This is a machine that you must blow into for a measurement of your BAC before the car starts. If the ignition interlock device detects a certain level of alcohol, the vehicle will be disabled temporarily.

The court also is likely to order you to refrain from consuming any alcohol or using any controlled substances without a prescription. You may have to undergo random alcohol and drug testing to ensure that you comply with this order in some circumstances.

DWI with a child passenger is a state jail felony offense, which can result in a fine of up to $10,000 and a sentence of incarceration ranging from 180 days to two years. As a result, individuals convicted of this crime also will lose some of their civil rights, such as the right to vote and possess firearms. An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

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Do Police Need a Warrant to Test Your Blood that Was Drawn for Medical Purposes?

By Peek & Toland on June 13, 2019

Normally, police officers must get a warrant signed by a judge to have the authority to draw your blood when they have arrested you on suspicion of DUI. Suppose, however, that emergency medical personnel transport a person to the hospital following a motor vehicle accident and law enforcement authorities suspect that the person was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident. In this situation, are the police entitled to access the results of the blood tests that the hospital performed purely for medical diagnosis purposes or use the blood drawn by the hospital to perform independent testing without a search warrant? The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the highest state court that hears criminal cases, recently issued a ruling on this issue.

Do Police Need a Warrant to Test Your Blood that Was Drawn for Medical Purposes?

According to the court, individuals have no expectation of privacy in the results of blood tests performed by hospital personnel following an accident. HIPAA, the federal law that protects an individual’s right to privacy with respect to his or her medical records, has an exception for grand jury subpoena. Therefore, the state can use a grand jury subpoena obtain the individual’s medical records, including the results of any blood tests performed by the hospital without a need to obtain a search warrant.

However, individuals do have an expectation of privacy in the disposition of the blood drawn by the hospital. As a result, the police do need a warrant to take blood samples that the hospital has drawn for medical purposes if they wish to test the blood for the presence of alcohol or drugs. If police fail to obtain a warrant prior to obtaining and testing the blood, there is a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including charges involving bribery. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

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Can My Child Be Tried as an Adult on DWI Charges?

By Peek & Toland on April 1, 2019

Standards for DWI and DUI charges in Texas are different for adults over the age of 21 and individuals who are under the age of 21; all persons under the age of 21 are considered minors for the purposes of DWI and DUI laws. While adults typically will not face DWI charges unless they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) that measures 0.08% or greater, individuals who are under the age of 21 can face DUI charges if they have any detectable amount of alcohol in their systems. However, while individuals under the age of 18 only can face DUI charges, those who are between the ages of 17 and 21 can face adult charges and penalties for DWI.  Generally, the penalties for DUI for adults are harsher than those for DWI for minors.

 

Can My Child Be Tried as an Adult on DWI Charges?

A first-time DUI charge for an individual who is under the age of 17 is a Class C misdemeanor offense, which can result in a fine of up to $500, between 20 and 40 hours of community service, and a driver’s license suspension ranging from 60 – 180 days. For individuals who are under 17 and refuse to take a BAC test, the suspension period is an automatic 180 days. 

In contrast, a first-time DWI charge for individuals who are between the ages of 17 and 21 is a Class B misdemeanor offense. Penalties for a Class B misdemeanor include fines of up to $2,000 and a period of incarceration ranging from 72 hours to 180 days. These individuals also may face a license suspension of up to one year, although the court can reduce the suspension to 90 days if it orders completion of community service hours and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). Refusing to take a BAC test also results in an automatic 180-day license suspension. 

An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

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Marijuana DWI in Texas

By Peek & Toland on March 20, 2019

Although many states in recent years have legalized medical marijuana and even recreational marijuana in some cases, Texas has not followed this trend. With the narrow exception of low-THC cannabidiol oil prescribed for intractable epilepsy, marijuana remains illegal under Texas law in any amount and any circumstances. As a result, driving while under the influence of marijuana, or marijuana DWI, is illegal in the state of Texas.

Marijuana can affect judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time. All these characteristics arguably are necessary for safe driving. However, studies have produced mixed results as to whether marijuana truly impairs persons to the extent that they cannot safely drive.

Marijuana DWI in Texas

Under Tex. Pen. Code § 49.04, it is illegal to drive while intoxicated. Texas law defines individuals as intoxicated when they do not have the normal use of mental or physical faculties, due to alcohol, controlled substances, dangerous drugs, or a combination of these substances. Therefore, to the extent that marijuana has caused impairment to your mental or physical faculties and you choose to drive, you could be charged with marijuana DWI. 

The potential penalties for marijuana DWI are the same as those for DWI due to alcohol. For a first offense, the charge is a Class B misdemeanor, which can carry a potential term of incarceration of up to 180 days, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. Drivers convicted of DWI also will face a mandatory driver’s license, increased motor vehicle insurance rates, and annual surcharges assessed by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) of $1,000 per year for three years. A DWI sentence also may include mandatory community service, drug rehabilitation or counseling, and vehicle impoundment.

Furthermore, if you possess marijuana at the time of your arrest, you may also be charged with possession of marijuana. While this does not occur in all jurisdictions in Texas, as some no longer prosecute possession of small amounts of marijuana, it is a possibility in other jurisdictions. Otherwise, the prosecutor can use the presence of marijuana as evidence in support of the marijuana DWI charge.

If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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Can I Get a Concealed Handgun License if I Have a DWI Conviction?

By Peek & Toland on March 17, 2019

While most people expect restrictions on the ability to obtain a concealed handgun license for those who commit violent crimes, they may not realize that even a DWI conviction can impact eligibility for a concealed handgun license. The fact is, a DWI conviction can impact your ability to get a concealed carry license on a temporary basis, and in some cases, on a permanent basis.

A first DWI conviction is a Class B misdemeanor. Under Texas law, if you have a Class A or Class B misdemeanor conviction, you are ineligible to get a concealed handgun license for five years. Even if you successfully resolve your DWI through deferred adjudication, which means that the charges against you ultimately are dismissed, it still counts as a conviction for the purposes of concealed carry licenses. If you already possess a license at the time of your conviction, it will be automatically suspended.

Can I Get a Concealed Handgun License if I Have a DWI Conviction?

If you are convicted of DWI twice within ten years, you are likely to become permanently ineligible for a concealed handgun license. One of the grounds for denying concealed carry licenses in the state of Texas is chemical dependency. Therefore, even after five years have passed since your most recent DWI conviction, you are likely to remain ineligible for a concealed handgun license.

Individuals who have pending Class A or B misdemeanor charges also do not qualify for a concealed handgun license. Therefore, while your DWI charges are pending, even if you are completing a deferred adjudication program, you will be ineligible for a license to carry a concealed handgun.

Third DWI charges and DWI with a child passenger both are felony offenses under Texas law. Once you have a felony conviction, federal and state law prohibits you from possessing any type of firearm.

When you are charged with any type of criminal offense in the state of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. Taking steps to get you released from jail and fight for your rights at the outset of your case is typically easier than waiting until your case has progressed. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

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