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Do you know the new Texas traffic and criminal laws?


Below is a list of selected changes to traffic and criminal statutes that went into effect on September 1, 2011.

**Please note that this is not a comprehensive list**
for a complete list of all new laws passed by the Texas Legislature
visit Texas Legislature Online

Texas Capital Building, Austin TexasCriminal Laws

•  Certain synthetic compounds deceptively labeled as “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana products (K2 or spice) have been added to Penalty Group 2 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. (HB 2118, SB 331). Bath salts contain dangerous stimulants, and K2 mimics the effects of marijuana. Both have been sold in convenience stores and head shops, and have side effects that can be harmful and long‐lasting.

•  The electronic transmission or possession of visual material depicting a minor engaging in sexual conduct (“sexting”) has been added as an offense in the Penal Code. The penalty can range from a Class C misdemeanor to Class A misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. This does not apply to minors involved in a dating relationship or spouses. (SB 407)

•  The possession or use of tire deflation devices, commonly known as caltrops, for any purpose other than law enforcement use or as an antique or curio is prohibited. Criminal organizations have increasingly used caltrops as they attempt to evade apprehension, resulting in damage to patrol vehicles and innocent vehicles on the road. (SB 1416)

Traffic Laws

•  Tow trucks have now been added to the slow down or move over laws, which require drivers to slow down 20 miles per hour below the speed limit, or to vacate the lane closest to the stopped emergency vehicle that has emergency lights activated if the road has multiple lanes traveling in the same direction. (HB 378)

•  Speed limits will now be the same during night and day driving, and separate speed limits for trucks have been eliminated. The maximum speed limit on state highways may be raised to 75 miles per hour if approved after a finding by TxDOT that the increased speed would be reasonable and safe following an engineering and traffic investigation. (HB 1353)

•   A driver may not allow a child under 18 to ride in a watercraft while it is being towed on a street or highway. This does not include watercraft being towed on a beach or in a parade. (HB 2981)

Driver License

•  Hardship driver licenses will be suspended if the holder is convicted of two or more moving violations during a 12‐month period. DPS may no longer waive the driver education requirement to issue a 60‐day hardship license. (HB 90)

•  Drivers subject to the Driver Responsibility Program will be able to pay the entire three‐year amount of surcharges owed for a violation in advance, rather than paying across all three years. (HB 588).

•  Veterans will be exempt from the fee for a personal identification certificate if they can show honorable discharge and at least 60 percent service‐related disability. Disabled veterans are exempted from driver license fees under current law. (HB 1148)

•  A veteran designation will be displayed on a driver license for applicants who provide proof of military service and honorable discharge. (HB 1514)

•  The Sunset Commission has been charged with reviewing the current oversight structure of driver education and driver safety schools, which are currently overseen by the Texas Education Agency, and determine if another state agency should have oversight. Providers of driver education courses, including DPS for the purposes of parent taught driver education, will be able to provide certificates of completion directly to those who have completed driver education courses. (HB 2678)

•  DPS will establish a deferral program for surcharges assessed under the Driver Responsibility Program to military personnel actively deployed outside the U.S. for the duration of the individual’s deployment. (HB 2851)

•  Voters will be required to present a driver license, personal identification certificate, military identification, election identification certificate, United States citizenship certificate passport, or concealed handgun license to participate in an election. DPS must create an election identification certificate to be issued by DPS for registered voters who do not have any of the other acceptable forms of photo identification. The election identification certificate will be distinguishable from a driver license or personal identification certificate, and will be issued free of charge to persons only if they do not hold any other acceptable form of identification, as
listed in Election Code 63.0101. These forms of identification include a driver license, personal identification certificate, military identification, a United States citizenship certificate, passport, or concealed handgun license. (SB 14)

•  A four‐hour driving safety course was approved for drivers under 25 years old. Drivers under 25 who are cited for a moving violation may be required to take this course. (SB 1330)

•  Applicants for a driver license or identification certificate must provide proof that the applicant is lawfully present in the United States. Applicants who are not U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, or admitted to the U.S. as refugees or asylees are considered temporary visitors. Driver license and identification certificates issued to temporary visitors expire concurrent with the end of the applicant’s lawful presence, or after one year if the legal stay is indefinite. Driver license and identification certificates issued to temporary visitors are to be in the same format and contain the same information as those issued to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. (SB 1, 82nd 1st Called Session, effective September 28, 2011)

Weapons

•  A person may carry a handgun, knife, or club in a watercraft under the person’s ownership or control. The handgun, knife, or club may not be in plain view, used while engaging in criminal activity, or carried by a member of a criminal street gang. (HB 25)

•  Employers may not prohibit employees with a concealed handgun license from having firearms or ammunition in their personal cars in the employer’s parking lot. This does not apply to employees of public, private or charter schools, or employees of chemical manufacturers or oil and gas refiners. (SB 321)

Crime Labs

•  Crime laboratories are required to preserve biological evidence used in the investigation or prosecution of a felony for at least 40 years, or until the applicable statute of limitations has expired if there is an un‐apprehended actor associated with the offense. (SB 1616, effective June 17, 2011)

•  Law enforcement agencies are required to submit DNA evidence in active sexual assault cases to an accredited laboratory within 30 days of receipt. Once the evidence has been analyzed, the DNA must be compared by DPS to state and federal DNA databases. The bill requires law enforcement agencies to submit unanalyzed DNA evidence collected after September 1, 1996, to DPS for analysis. (SB 1636)

Miscellaneous New Laws

•  A new category of missing person alerts may now be issued for missing persons with intellectual disabilities. Activation of this alert includes a requirement of documentation of a qualifying intellectual disability. (HB 1075)

•  DPS must create a pass for expedited access to the state Capitol building. To be eligible, an applicant must meet the criteria to apply for a concealed handgun license, with the exception of handgun proficiency requirements. (HB 2131, effective May 30, 2011)

•  The Texas Fusion Center Policy Council was created to assist DPS in monitoring fusion center activities in Texas. The council is required to establish a privacy advisory group, recommend best practices for fusion centers in Texas and annually submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature regarding the council’s progress. (HB 3324, effective June 17, 2011)

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Safety, Texas Laws

 

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Minor in Possession – Consumption


Exceptions to Minimum Age of 21 for Consumptio...

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My son was charged with Minor in Consumption-Minor in Possession, what does this mean?  What is going to happen to him?

MINOR IN CONSUMPTION

A minor (in alcohol related offenses, a person under the age of 21, the legal drinking age) can be charged with a Minor in Consumption charge for simply consuming an alcoholic beverage.  An officer does not have to actually see him drink the alcoholic beverage but may make the determination to charge him with the offense if he smells alcohol on him or if he agrees to take a breath test and blows a number indicative of alcohol consumption.  Mere possession of alcohol is not sufficient to warrant him being charged with Minor in Consumption.  An affirmative defense does exist if he consumed the alcohol in the visible presence of his adult parent, guardian or spouse.

MINOR IN POSSESSION

Just as it is illegal for a minor to purchase alcohol, it is also a crime for a minor to be found in possession of alcohol.  Possession of alcohol for this charge can be considered in various ways.  If he is found holding a beer can/bottle, whether it is empty or full he can be charged with Minor in Possession.  He could also be found in possession at a party where this is alcohol present even if he is not physically holding any alcohol.  He may be at risk of being charged with Minor in Possession whenever he is at a party, nightclub, or in a vehicle where is alcohol is present.  However, if he was is in the visible presence of his adult parent, guardian or spouse he may not be charged with Minor in Possession.  Additionally, he may not be charged with Minor in Possession if he was in possession of the alcohol in the course and scope of his legal employment.

CONSEQUENCES

Minor in Consumption and Minor in Possession are both Class C misdemeanors, the same level as a speeding ticket.  These charges along with the other alcohol related offenses of the Purchase of Alcohol by a Minor or the Attempted Purchase of Alcohol by a Minor can result in various ranges of punishment depending on if this was the first time he was charged with an alcohol related offense.  Frequently, a court will allow a minor to be placed on deferred disposition which allows the case to be dismissed once certain requirements have been fulfilled.

If this was the first time the minor was charged with an alcohol related offense and placed on deferred disposition, the judge may order the minor’s driver’s license to be suspended for 30 days or if he does not yet have his license issue an order to deny the issuance of one for 30 days; up to a $500 fine; 8 to 12 hours of community service; and mandatory attendance of alcohol-awareness classes.

If this isn’t his first time being convicted of an alcohol related offense then the judge may order he be fined between $250 and $2,000; 20 to 40 hours of community service, and can be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail.  The judge may also suspend the license for 60 days if this is not the first alcohol related offense but 180 days if the minor has been previously convicted twice or more of an alcohol related offense. The judge may further impose the attendance of an alcohol awareness class.  Unfortunately, if a minor has been convicted twice or more for an alcohol offense, he is not eligible for deferred disposition and thus not eligible for a dismissal of his case through this method.

If the minor is under the age of 18, the court may also require the parents of the minor attend the class as well.  If he doesn’t complete the conditions set out by the judge within the allotted time, then his license may be suspended up to six months or denied issuance of a license or permit for six months if he has not yet been issued one.

Some people may not consider these types of cases as serious charges since they are only Class C misdemeanors but we think otherwise.  We understand that an alcohol related offense on your child’s record could impact their chances of getting into college or even being hired for certain jobs.  As criminal defense attorneys who have handled a wide range of cases, and several MIP and MIC charges, we will fight our hardest to achieve the best results possible for your child’s case.

Visit us on Facebook and contact us for a free consultation at any of our Texas locations, Georgetown, Austin, San Marcos and McKinney.

 

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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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