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Category Archives: Alcohol Related Offenses

Do I really need to hire a criminal attorney?


Stylized arrest.

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Assault, DWI, theft, weapons charges? Do I really need to hire a criminal defense attorney to defend me or can I defend myself?

You do not have to hire a criminal attorney to defend you if you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony — the better question is should you?  The bottom line is yes, you really should.  Sometimes, even when faced with a minor crime such as a traffic violation (class C misdemeanor) – the most important thing you need to consider is do you want this charge on your permanent record?

In today’s competitive job market it is difficult, to say the least, to secure employment even if you have a sterling reputation.  Almost all potential employers will tell you that even if you are lucky enough to make it as a candidate for the job, just one negative item on your background check can and most likely will eliminate you from being considered for the job.

If that is the case for just a class C misdemeanor, consider what implications a DWI or a felony charge will have on your record.  Every employer considers factors such as ethics and liability when hiring a new employee.  They may not be able to obtain insurance for you if you have a DWI or other charges on your record.  If an employer is ever sued and the complainant presents that an employee has a criminal record, it can result in the case being lost (even if the case is based on trumped-up allegations)  All of these factors will weigh against you during the hiring process, making your chances of obtaining a good job very slim.

So think carefully before you walk into a courtroom and face the judge alone.  Criminal defense attorneys that have been in business for a long time, such as Mark Morales & Associates, are in and out of these courtrooms daily.  They know the law, they know the process and they know how to win your case…. Do you?

You can call and get a completely free consultation before you make a decision that will effect the rest of your life.  You can also call and find out how to have a criminal charge removed (expunged) from your record if you or another attorney were unable to prove your innocence in a court of law.

 

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License Suspension in Texas


Texas law requires that the department shall suspend a person’s driver’s license if the department determines that the person had an alcohol concentration of .08 in accordance with Section 49.01 (2)(B) of the Texas Penal Code, while operating a motor vehicle in a public place or while operating a watercraft; or (2)  the person was a minor on the date that the breath or blood specimen was obtained and had any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor’s system while operating a motor vehicle in a public place or while operating a watercraft.

Being arrested for a DWI in Texas does not necessarly result in having your driver’s license suspended.  There are options available to contest the suspension or to allow you to continue to drive legally despite the suspension.  Remember that each state has different laws regarding DWI’s and suspensions so it is important to find an attorney in your state that is knowledgable about DWI laws.

To assist you with the process of a license suspension in Texas, here is a break-down of what happens after a DWI arrest in Texas:

  • After you are arrested for a DWI, you have 15 days to request an ALR hearing.
  • A criminal defense attorney may request the hearing for you or you may request one yourself prior to hiring an attorney.  ALR hearings are used to contest driver’s license suspensions.
  • At an ALR hearing, license suspensions may be overturned completely or the suspension may be postponed until a later time pending the outcome of the hearing.

Driving is a necessity to life, so of course it’s important to ensure that you can continue driving legally. If an ALR hearing is not successful in overturning your license suspension, another option available in Texas counties, such as Williamson, Travis, and Hays, is to file a petition for an Occupational Driver’s License.  An Occupational Driver’s License is an incredibly helpful option that allows you to maintain the ability to drive as needed despite your license being suspended as a result of a DWI arrest or other offense.

Here is a list of items you will need in order to have the petition granted and continue driving after your license suspension:

  • A letter from your employer explaining your need to drive.  The letter should include a list of all counties in which you may need to drive during your license suspension along with the times of day and days of the week that you would need to drive.
  • An SR-22 insurance form from either your insurance company or another insurance company.  An SR-22 is a supplement to the insurance that you currently have.
  • Filing Fee’s.  Fees vary by county in which the offense was committed
  • A copy of your three-year driving record.  This can be obtained from Texas DPS. You can visit their website and download the application at http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/InternetForms/Forms/DR-1.pdf
  • A personal letter listing any activities in which you need to attend outside of work, i.e:
    • School classes,
    • church,
    • court settings,
    • AA meetings,
    • doctor appointments,
    • childcare,
    • carrying out essential household duties, etc.
    • This list must also include all of the counties in which you may need to drive during your license suspension along with times of day and days of the week

Once all of the requirements have been submitted, a petition is drafted and filed with the court.  Once your petition is filed in court, a hearing may be required, depending on where the petition is filed.  If the court grants you an Occupational Driver’s License you will be eligible to drive for the reasons and times approved by the judge in your petition and outlined in the order resulting from the court’s approval.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • While driving with an Occupational Driver’s License the order should always be in your possession. 
  • If you are pulled over and do not have the order in your possession you will be arrested. 
  • Once your suspension period is over, you simply have to pay a reinstatement fee and you will receive your regular license back. 

If you have any questions or have been charged with an alcohol related offense, feel free to visit us on Facebook and post a question, leave a comment or fill out a free case evaluation form with no obligation.

 

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Texas Statewide No-Refusal Weekend – first of its kind in the nation ever!


Fireworks display at the UT tower during Diwal...
Image via Wikipedia

Everyone loves the Fourth of July.  It has become the unofficial celebration of summer as people across the United States enjoy the very essence of independence and freedom.  Everywhere you go you see families’ barbequing, neighborhood block parties and friends hanging out wherever it’s cool – lakes, pools, rivers, beaches – everyone enjoying a good time just waiting for the sun to go down and the fireworks to start. Unfortunately, the days following the Fourth of July, many of those same people reunite at hospitals, police stations, attorney offices – and even more unfortunate, funerals.

Last year in Texas alone, officers responded to 337,000 crashes over the Fourth of July weekend.  In 2009, the “no refusal holiday program” was created to enforce Texas DWI laws in order to help lower alcohol related accidents.  The program allows law enforcement and prosecutors to designate a holiday weekend, such as New Year’s Eve, Halloween, or Super Bowl weekend, where law enforcement officers can stop a driver for DWI suspicion and take a blood sample to test for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).  According to a press release Tuesday in Austin regarding the statewide program— “drivers also can be arrested with a BAC below 0.08 when a law enforcement officer has probable cause, based on the driver’s behavior, to believe the driver has lost the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol or any substance into his or her body.”  Along with extra patrol on the road, there will also be additional enforcement on the water all across the state enforcing no refusal.  So not only are you at risk drinking and driving, but drinking and boating as well.

The concept of this program is simple – you cannot refuse.  If you are stopped for a busted tail-light, not using your blinker, not wearing a seatbelt, speeding or any other minor traffic violation and the officer suspects that you are intoxicated you will be required to have your blood drawn or take a breathalyzer test .  During “No Refusal Weekends,” judges are on standby to sign a warrant permitting the police to take a blood sample after a suspected driver refuses to submit to a breath or blood test.  Basically, if you drive on a “No Refusal Weekend,” and an officer suspects you have been drinking, he can obtain a sample of your blood to test for BAC whether you like it or not.

You might wonder how law enforcement is able to do this without violating your rights.  When you obtain a Texas driver’s license, you have implicitly consented to provide a sample of breath or blood when it is requested by law enforcement agents during a DWI arrest but you may refuse until the law enforcement agent obtains a valid search warrant.  Under normal circumstances, an officer has to wait for a warrant to obtain a sample of your blood and judges are not always readily available… unlike “No-Refusal Weekends” when judges are standing by to issue these warrants at a moment’s notice.

The best thing you can do if you have been drinking during a “No Refusal Weekend” is to call a cab or have a designated driver.   If you have any questions about your arrest or rights after a DWI, DUI, BWI or any other alcohol related offense in Texas please join us on Facebook or post a comment anywhere on this blog and an experienced Texas attorney will be happy to assist you.

KEY MESSAGES:

  • During the July 4th holiday, alcohol is a major factor in fatal crashes.
  • Motor vehicle traffic crashes killed 410 people during the Fourth of July holiday period in 2009.  Of that number, 40 percent involved drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.
  • Alcohol-impaired-driving crashes killed 10,839 people in 2009, accounting for 32 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.  That’s an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 48 minutes.
  • Beware: the rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2009 was four times higher at night than during the day.

Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.

  • This summer don’t let your 4th of July end in an arrest—or even worse, death. Make smart decisions. Plan ahead so you can ensure a safe way home.
  • Cops are cracking down, and there will be no second chances.  If you are caught driving with a BAC of .08 or higher, you will be arrested.
  • Remember, don’t ever get behind the wheel of a vehicle when you are impaired, and don’t ride with a driver who has been drinking.
  • Whether way too many or just one too many, it’s not worth the risk. Drunk driving creates serious consequences.
  • Alcohol impairs many of the skills that safe driving requires, including judgment, concentration, comprehension, coordination, visual acuity and reaction time.
  • Driving with a BAC of .08 or higher is illegal in every state. Yet too many people still ignore the law. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, more than 1.44 million people were arrested for driving under the influence during 2009.
  • The tragedies and costs from drinking and driving impaired do not just end at the potential death, disfigurement, disability and injury caused by impaired drivers.
  • People who break the law often face jail time, the loss of their driver licenses, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses from attorney fees, fines and court costs, car towing and repairs, lost time at work, etc.
  • Driving impaired or riding with someone who is impaired is not worth the risk. The consequences are serious and real. Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while impaired can be really significant and not the way you want to celebrate the July 4th holiday.

Remember: Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.
(information provided by Traffic Safety Marketing
a program sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

 

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This is the guy that refused….


 

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BWI – Boating While Intoxicated

BWI – Boating While Intoxicated

With summer activities kicking into full gear and people beginning to relax on their boats throughout the Austin lake ways of  Travis, Williamson, and Hays counties it’s a great time to discuss Boating While Intoxicated.

Enjoy your time hanging out at Devil’s Cove, Carlos & Charlie’s or The Oasis on Lake Travis — but be careful while consuming alcohol because you could get more than just a bad sunburn.

Many people are unaware that Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) is a crime but it is and was responsible for more than 300 arrests in Texas in 2010. Under Texas Penal Code § 49.06, BWI is a Class B misdemeanor. It is illegal to operate a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher (the same BAC that will result in an arrest for a DWI). You may also be charged with BWI in Texas if you are operating a boat and do not have normal use of your mental or physical facilities due to alcohol or drugs.

BWI FACTS:

  • A BWI carries the same penalty as a DWI.
  • A first conviction can result in a fine up to $2,000 and/or jail time up to 180 days.
  • A second conviction can result in a fine up to $4,000 and/or jail time up to one year.
  • A third conviction can result in a fine up to $10,000 and/or jail time of 2-10 years.
  • If you are found boating while intoxicated on a vessel that has an engine over 50 horsepower (this includes boats and jet skis), your license will automatically be suspended.
oasis at lake travis

Image by Tara Deck

Unlike a DWI an officer is not required to have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop your boat and test you for suspected impairment. On a boat, you can be stopped at the officer’s discretion to check the boat for safety floatation devices. The officer may then proceed to conduct a sobriety test based on factors he witnesses while on the boat such as smelling alcohol on breath, bloodshot eyes or a red face. Some of these factors could easily be explained as sun exposure but will frequently lead officers to conduct field sobriety tests. Officers may also stop boaters for other reasons including: driving the boat too fast for the waterway, aggressive turns, or failure to turn on lights and other equipment.

To investigate whether a person was boating while intoxicated an officer will likely perform some sobriety tests on the water to determine if there is reason to conduct a further investigation on land. The tests performed “on the water” will likely include such things as reciting the alphabet and divided attention tests (including hand-palm touches or a finger count). Officers are instructed to wait 15 minutes before administering sobriety tests on land, so that a person may regain his equilibrium after being removed from water to land.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from being charged with a BWI is to appoint a designated driver or don’t drink and drive.

If you have any questions about what constitutes Boating While Intoxicated or have been charged with an alcohol related offense, feel free to visit us on Facebook and post a question, leave a comment or fill out a free case evaluation form with no obligation.

 

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Public Intoxication


Man passed out from drinking.Public Intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor, the same as a general traffic ticket, and punishable by a fine up to $500 with the possibility of jail time up to 12 hours. Some may consider a Public Intoxication charge a minor offense since it is only a Class C misdemeanor but having this on your record could very likely affect your future by hindering job or education opportunities.

According to Texas Penal Code § 49.02, if a person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that he may endanger himself or another person he is guilty of Public Intoxication. Intoxication means that a person lacks the normal use of mental or physical abilities because of the presence of alcohol, a drug (prescription, controlled, or even over-the-counter), a combination of substances, or any other substance in the body.

A public place means any place to which the public has access and includes, but is not limited to, streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartments, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops. A person could be charged with Public Intoxication in a bar or even riding as a passenger in a car. At the time of the offense, the officer could merely issue a citation and release the individual to the care of an adult but an officer may arrest the person and have them remain in jail for up to 12 hours.

If a minor (under the age of 21) is arrested for Public Intoxication, the consequences do not stop with a mere fine. A minor’s license may be suspended for 30 days. A minor’s second offense can result in a suspension of 60 days and a third can result of 180 days.

Being arrested for Public Intoxication can be both a humiliating and traumatic experience but if you find yourself in that position, make sure you find an attorney that you can trust to do everything possible to help fight for you and win your case. There are good criminal defense attorneys serving Williamson, Travis, Hays, Collin,
Dallas, and Tarrant Counties that can assist you with your legal needs.

If you have any questions about what constitutes public intoxication or have been charged with any other alcohol related offense, feel free to leave a comment or visit us on Facebook and fill out a free case evaluation form with no obligation.

 

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Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol by Minor


DSCF7933

Image by beardenb via Flickr

My son was charged with Driving under the Influence?  What does this mean?  What do I need to know? 

Texas law states that a minor (under the age of 21) commits an offense of a DUI (a Class C misdemeanor) if he operates a motor vehicle in a public place while having any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor’s system.  This is a much lower standard than is required to arrest a person for a DWI.  A detectable amount means that a minor does not have to have a Blood Alcohol Content level of .08 or higher like with a DWI, but can be arrested for simply the smell of alcohol on his breath.

More than likely your son was either issued a citation — along with a notice of license suspension for this charge or he may have been arrested; both are permissible by law.  During the initial traffic stop, after the officer determines that the person they are investigating is in fact a minor, he may issue a citation for a less serious offense or decide to conduct field sobriety tests if he has reasonable suspicion to believe the minor was severely impaired.  If the officer arrests him for not satisfactorily completing the field sobriety tests, he may also request a breath or blood specimen to test his blood alcohol content.  When your son was charged with DUI, his license will be suspended.  The suspension is the same administrative license revocation (ALR) process that is used in DWI cases.  There is a 15 day period to request a hearing after being issued a citation or being arrested for a DUI to contest the license suspension.

If this was the first time the minor was stopped for drinking and driving, the judge may order:

If he doesn’t complete the conditions set out by the judge within the allotted time, then his license may be suspended for up to six months.

If this isn’t the minor’s first time being convicted of a DUI then the judge may order:

  •  A fine between $500 and $2,000;
  • 40 to 60 hours of community service,
  • and a sentence of  up to 180 days in jail.

If your son is under the age of 18, the court may require you or another parent/guardian be present with your son at every court appearance. The court may also require you attend the alcohol-awareness class with your son.   However, the court may allow an attorney to appear on your son’s behalf at the court appearances.

Just because he is under the age of 21 does not mean he will automatically be charged with a DUI rather than a DWI. An officer may arrest a minor for the more serious offense of DWI if the circumstances warrant such a charge.

If the minor had a BAC of .08 or greater he could be punished with the same penalties that apply to a DWI:

  • a $2,000 fine,
  • 72 hours to 180 days in jail,
  • and a driver’s license suspension of 90 days to one year.

Having your son or daughter arrested or issued a citation for a DWI or DUI can be very stressful and nerve racking for you as a parent.  You need to find a reputable attorney that will fight hard to have your child’s case dismissed and will fight as if it were for their own child.

 

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