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Tag Archives: criminal defense

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol by Minor


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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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What Happens After a Dwi Arrest In Texas?


ArrestedAdministrative License Revocation: To preserve your right to drive in Texas, you must request a hearing within 15 days of when you were served with a Notice of Suspension(usually the date of arrest). If you timely requested a hearing to contest your license suspension, you will be able to continue driving until the hearing. If you lose at the hearing, you can not drive after the hearing. It is our opinion you should requests the officer’s presence at the hearing. Crucial defenses can be developed at the hearing. If your license is suspended at the hearing, you may be able to secure an occupational license to drive.

lst Appearance: If you have been arrested and released for a misdemeanor DWI, you will be given a date to return to court (usually 30 days after your arrest). If you hire an attorney, the attorney can usually make this appearance for you, so that you do not have to attend. During this 30 day period, the case is sent to the County Attorney‘s office for further investigation. The County Attorney then prepares an information and files this with the County Clerk, and your case is set on the court’s docket.

Pre­trial Conference: Your attorney will discuss your case with the County Attorney to discuss the best possible resolution of your case. This conference will happen about 8­10 weeks after your 1st Appearance date.

Suppression Hearing: The Court may suppress some or all of the evidence against you if your constitutional rights have been violated. Your attorney will file motions to suppress. It occurs anywhere 6 weeks to 3 months after the pre­trial conference.

Trial: You may either request a bench trial wherein the court hears the case or a jury trial wherein a jury of your peers hears the case. If the case is a misdemeanor, the trial will be to a jury of six. If the case is a felony, the jury will be to a jury of twelve.

Sentencing: The Court imposes a sentence after a conviction at trial or after a plea bargain is accepted and a plea entered. Sentences may include jail time, numerous fees, fines, community service, alcohol classes and fines.

 

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You Have the Right to Remain Silent


Right to SilenceIt cannot be emphasized enough that in the United States, a person gives up Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights the moment they begin cooperating with police in any way prior to arrest. These rights technically cannot be reclaimed after an arrest has been made and Miranda rights have been read. this is true because police do not have to advise a person of his/her rights until after he/she incriminates themselves and/or are arrested. In other words, if the person cooperates prior to being arrested, then they have surrendered most of the rights of which the police are advising that arrestee when they are reading them their Miranda rights.

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about protecting your right’s that helps to illustrate this point:

 “In the U.S., the only way for one to protect one’s rights fully is to refuse answering any questions beyond giving one’s name and identifying papers if requested and to refuse giving consent to anything (such as a search) prior to one’s arrest. Law enforcement officials in the United States rely heavily upon the subtle intimidation of their position and power and the ignorance of citizens to their rights in order to make people incriminate themselves. Police do not have to tell civilians the truth on any subject. They can make any promises and claims they like in order to induce a person to incriminate herself or himself or to allow the police to perform a search, and police are not bound by anything they promise to suspects or witnesses (i.e. promises of aid or protection).United States citizens must know their rights in order to avoid losing them by inadvertently giving them away.” – Taken from: Wikipedia “Right to Silence”

In other words the rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fifth Amendment are not automatically invoked by the accused. In fact the opposite is true. If a person does not actively invoke their rights then their rights are automatically surrendered. This is why it is imperative that anyone who is arrested or accused of a crime should exercise their right to remain silent! Thankfully, not answering any questions asked by the police is not considered incriminating in and of itself in the U.S. legal system. Therefore, a person who finds themselves arrested and/or accused of a crime in the U.S. should answer any police questions with a polite request for an attorney. When interrogated simply and politely say “I would like to speak with a lawyer” and contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as it is possible.

This advice may sound counter-intuitive. Especially since we are taught all of our lives that the police exist to protect and serve us. Against these long established beliefs of police benevolence it is important to remember what are trained to do with people they arrest or accuse of a crime. Police officers are trained to investigate and gather evidence to build a case against the people they arrest or accuse of a crime. If you are arrested the police are not trained to be your priest, pastor, personal coach, or counselor. In short, if you are under arrest the police are not your friend.

Further compounding this issue is the fact that police officers are not infallible. They are flesh and blood human beings who make mistakes just like the rest of us. As such it is all too common for the police to bend the rules and take certain statements out of context in order to gain the upper hand and get a conviction. The police know that most people willingly provide them with the evidence needed for a conviction through confessions and statements taken during the interrogation process. It is for this reasons that while it is always a good idea to have a respectful attitude when dealing with the police, it is equally important to answer any questions they have in a controlled setting with access to competent legal advice.

After all, the State of Texas and United States Attorney’s Office take advantage of their huge budget by being able to have access to a large staff of lawyers, police officers, and crime lab experts to help prosecute their cases. This means that it is highly unlikely that a person who is accused of a crime will be able to challenge the government’s case without competent legal representation. Without an attorney the jury will more often than not accept whatever evidence the prosecutor produces.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2011 in Legal Rights

 

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