TxDOT Signs Bend Truth for Noble Cause

August 27, 2012

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

On a recent drive to Austin and back, I couldn’t help but notice about 10 or 15 Texas Department of Transportation electronic signs which flashed two sequential screens.  The first was “1785 Deaths This Year on Texas Roads” and the second was a reminder not to drink and drive.

Wow, I thought… I didn’t realize drunk driver’s caused about 250 deaths per month in Texas alone!  Then I started thinking this figure sounded a bit too high.  Then my lawyer brain started to kick in and I realized the TxDOT signs were sort of making a play on words… The signs didn’t actually SAY all 1785 were caused by DWI — they had their fingers crossed!

The Obvious

No one wants drunk drivers on our roads.  Losing a loved one on the highway is a terrible tragedy no one should experience regardless of whether it’s inattentive driving, road rage, texting or drunk driving.  Hopefully the TxDOT officials decision to publish the number of traffic related deaths will turn heads and in doing so make our highways a safer place to drive.  You can read some of the PR they got here and here.

The Rub

The signs leave the clear impression the 1785 tragic losses on the highway are ALL due to Driving While Intoxicated.  When you read the quote from TxDOT spokesman Mark Petit, he says “We think that pointing out the number of deaths that have occurred so far this year will make somebody think twice maybe about whether they should pick up that cell phone and text somebody, or whether they should buckle that seatbelt.”

But the signs don’t say, “Buckle Up” and they don’t say, “Don’t Text and Drive.”  Each sign I saw had the same sequence of traffic deaths followed by the warnings against drinking and driving.

Here’s Why It’s A Problem

It’s a problem because it leaves a false impression, over-exaggerates, and stokes the flames against a group of people that it’s already somewhat popular to pick on — DWI suspects.  TxDOT concedes traffic fatalities have declined 21% in roughly the past decade and Mr. Petit’s warning in the above quote is also clearly against distracted driving.

Think of how angry you would be if your husband, wife, son or daughter were on trial for Driving While Intoxicated and during the jury selection process, you hear extremely angry jurors who want to presume a suspect guilty and give them far harsher punishment — because they’re lead to believe DWI related deaths are approximately 300% worse than they actually are (in 2011, TxDOT reports 3,015 total highway deaths and 1,039 “involved” alcohol).

If there is harm in the Texas Department of Transportation also warning drivers to put down hand-held devices and to wear seat belts in conjunction with the traffic death statistics — I have a hard time seeing it.  Everyone wants safer roads.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to Practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.  Contacting the attorney through this forum does not create an attorney-client relationship and communications sent through this forum are not privileged nor confidential.

 


What Happens After A DWI Arrest?

July 13, 2012

By Collin County Criminal Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

I am frequently asked “what now” after someone is released from jail on a driving while intoxicated arrest.  Though the specific answer may vary depending on where in Texas you were arrested, here are some answers to common questions:

What is My Legal Status?

If you just got out of jail for a DWI or DUI arrest, then you are technically released on bond.  This means have conditions to live by to assure you appear in court (or in certain cases) do not endanger the public.  You will probably not be formally charged with DWI for several weeks or in some cases (usually where there is blood evidence) for several months.  The District Attorney’s office in your county will review the report and decide whether to file a case against you with a document known as an “information.”  In Collin County virtually every case where an officer makes an arrest ultimately gets filed.

What Happens Now?

A DWI is two cases in one.  There are the driver’s license suspension issues and then there are the criminal aspects.

For the driver’s license suspension portion, you must remember you have 15 days appeal any driver’s license suspension issued because of a breath test refusal or failure (score of 0.08 or greater) within 15 days of the arrest with the Texas Department of Public Safety.  These are highly technical proceedings which lawyers commonly handle.  If a voluntary blood specimen was given, then you have 20 days after you receive notice your blood was above 0.08 blood/alcohol concentration.

For the criminal side of the case, you can expect to appear in court for an announcement when the case is filed with the information.  This appearance is more of a work-session between your lawyer than the prosecutor than an actual appearance before a judge (though in some jurisdictions the judge may wish to proceed with technical matters that require you to visit with them).  It is the announcement where your lawyer will have some access to the police report (again, depending on the jurisdiction) and access to the video evidence in the case.

Ultimately, you and your attorney will decide whether you wish to plead guilty to the charges with a plea bargain — or plead not guilty and have a trial.  It is also possible the State may dismiss the case depending various other factors.

Is My Driver’s License Suspended Immediately?

No.  If you were given a document called a DIC-25, then you have a temporary driving permit valid for 40 days from the date of the arrest.  If you appeal the suspension, the temporary permit is valid until your administrative law review hearing (ALR) which could be several months later.  This is the case even if the officer confiscated your driver’s license.

Can I Get This Off My Record?

Yes.  The steps may be different in each unique case, but not guilty verdicts and expunctions are common for DUI and DWI cases.  You should visit with a lawyer directly about how to accomplish this in your case.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact a lawyer directly.


What I Like About Defending DWI Cases Collin County

July 9, 2012

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

(972) 369-0577

Defending driving while intoxicated case presents a unique challenge to lawyers.  This is because long before entering the courtroom, you can detect a stiff headwind of resistance working against you which lasts the entire case.

You get the sense the legislature, lobbyists and victim advocacy groups, and even many jurors don’t stop to consider whether the police are right when they make an arrest.  Even the news media runs article after article about how if the courts and police were just meaner and tougher on these cases — they would somehow go away.  There is an unmistakable and heavy bias which reaches far beyond whether drunk driving is a problem — and assumes everyone suspected of DWI is guilty.

No one wants drunk drivers on the road.  Everyone’s heart breaks for victims of drunk drivers.  The vast majority of people respect and trust police which is one of the things that makes Collin County a great place to be.  But legislators, activist groups, and police are human.  By their very nature, groups with this degree of moral authority tend to make up the rules as they go along — and therein lies the potential for them to badly hurt innocent people in the name of the public good.

I enjoy the challenge of showing jurors that not everyone caught in the wide-cast-net of DWI is a drunk driver.  I enjoy showing the jury how the framers of the constitution knew the timeless attitudes of accusers, authority figures, and even society’s tendency to rush to judgment.  Most of all, I enjoy the challenge of winning cases where there is a steep up-hill climb with skeptical jurors, difficult police officers, and strict rules limiting our ability to defend the case.

Though I’m probably biased in favor of Collin County jurors, I enjoy trying cases in front of people that live in places like Allen, Plano, Frisco, McKinney and Richardson for the reason they are intelligent and open minded.  Without people even willing to listen — having a fair trial anywhere would be impossible.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.  Contacting the attorney through this forum does not create an attorney-client relationship nor are any communications confidential or privileged.


Texas DWI Punishment Gets Tougher for First Time Offenders. Again.

September 11, 2011

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

(972) 562-7549

A person with a blood alcohol concentration with a 0.15 or higher at the time the test is taken can now be charged with a Class A misdemeanor DWI instead of a Class B if it is their first offense.  This change took effect as of September 1, 2011.

First, let’s discuss the practical effects of the change.  A Class A misdemeanor on a DWI is punishable between 30 days and 1 year of county jail and a fine not to exceed $4,000.  A Class B DWI is punishable by between 72 hours jail and 180 days and a fine not to exceed $2,000.   Unlike a 2nd DWI, however, this law does not require the defendant serve 10 days as a term and condition of probation — meaning that a person doesn’t have to go to jail for 10 days just to be granted probation.

Second, you can see that I’ve italicized the words above “at the time the test is taken.”  This is a significant departure from normal drunk driving law which prohibits one’s blood/ alcohol concentration being above a 0.08 at the time of driving.  This is a “tie goes to the prosecutor” provision because it is very difficult for prosecutors to prove whether a person’s blood alcohol concentration was higher or lower at the time of driving due to a process known as retrograde extrapolation.  So this twist is really just punishing people who have blood alcohol concentrations that are on the rise when they are driving.

Texas’ prosecutorial mentality of “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” with this new change gives a person even more incentive to refuse a breath test and to take a DWI to trial.

*Jeremy F. Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation, you should contact a lawyer directly.  Contacting the attorney through this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship and no communication is considered privileged.