Monthly Archives:' October 2013

The Importance of Being Drug and Alcohol Free While on Bond

When charged with a crime, especially in Harris County, it is very important to remain drug and alcohol free while on bond.  This could potentially be the case even if you are not charged with a crime that involves alcohol and/or drugs.

Of course drugs are illegal, so you shouldn’t be doing them anyway.  But it seems silly to tell people that they shouldn’t be drinking when it’s legal.  I agree, but unfortunately, some judges do not care if it is legal, if they know you are drinking they could potentially take your bond away and put you back in jail.

One particular case I worked on recently was a possession of Marijuana case.  I warned my client ahead of time to not do drugs and to always be on time to court.  In an effort to try to get the case dismissed, I sent my client to take a drug test (which he passed).  He took this test on a Friday, and his court date was Monday.  Since he was clean and passed his drug test on Friday, he figured it was ok to do drugs during the weekend.

Fast forward to Monday, and my client shows up late to court.  The judge asked about the status of the case, and then he sent my client to get drug tested (warning him that a failed drug test would result in his bond being revoked).  My client sits in the probation department for hours, claiming that he doesn’t have to urinate, and then eventually leaves.  He doesn’t go back to court, and now he has a warrant for his arrest.  I have not heard from him since.  He went from having the opportunity to get his case dismissed, to making his problems three times as bad.

Alcohol related cases sometimes carry a pre-trial consequence of having an ignition interlock placed in your vehicle.  If you do not have a vehicle, an at home interlock might be assigned.  If you end up in a bad court, you could possibly even have a SCRAM device (an ankle monitor which takes a reading from your sweat glands to see if you have been drinking) installed on your person.

Similar to the consequences listed above, if you blow into your interlock device with alcohol, or if you SCRAM monitor reads alcohol, you run the risk of your bond being revoked.

While most of the time interlocks are used for alcohol related cases (DWI mostly), I have seen them used on cases such as Failure to Stop and Give Information (Hit and Run) and Domestic Violence Cases.

Whether or not this happens on your case depends a lot on the court you are placed in, and the judge who is hearing your case.  Most criminal attorneys in Houston who work consistently in the Criminal Justice Center can give you an idea of the tendencies of the judge handling your case.

Harris County DWI Pre-Trial Intervention Program

Harris County has a relatively new Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTIP) for individuals charged with a first DWI.  A similar program, the DIVERT program, no longer exists, and the PTIP is now taking its place.  It is similar to DIVERT, but it is much harder to get into the program. (Not all judges allow entry)

Harris County DWI Pre-Trial Intervention Program

Pre-Trial Intervention Program Eligibility

To be eligible you must:

  • Be charged with DWI in Harris County Texas
  • This must be your first arrest of your adult life

If you have ever been arrested for any crime at all, even if the case was dismissed, you are more than likely not going to be accepted into the program.  That does not seem fair at all, but at this point, that is how things are working.  Juvenile convictions/arrests are ok, as long as you disclose those on your application for the program.

Factors to being rejected from PTI Program

Other things that could cause you to be rejected from the program (on a case by case, judge by judge, basis) are:

  • A breath or blood test of over .15
  • Getting into a traffic accident as part of the DWI
  • Not having a valid license at the time of the DWI
  • Not having insurance at the time of the DWI

If you are eligible for the DWI PTIP, you will have to pay $202 to be interviewed and do a SALCE (Substance Abuse Life Circumstance Evaluation) test, which is a test that predicts your alcohol and drug risk level as a part of the program.

You will also have to pay a “DA Fee” of $130 and possibly submit to a drug test.  Finally, you must include a letter discussing the night of your DWI, and accepting responsibility.  After all of that, if you are accepted into the program, a contract is drawn up by the District Attorney’s office for you to fill out with your attorney.

Contract with the District Attorney

Typical contract terms include:

  • 1 year program
  • Community service
  • Monthly fees
  • Monthly meetings
  • Random drug tests
  • Ignition interlock device
  • DWI education class

Other items such as AA classes/counseling/drug treatment can be added as recommended based on the SALCE exam, and the circumstances surrounding the case.  After the contract is filled out, you go before the judge, and the judge enters you into the program.  You meet with the probation officer of the court, attend an orientation that same week, and start your monthly meetings the following month.

The case is reset for 1 year, and if you successfully complete all of the terms and conditions of the program, the case is dismissed on your next court date.  However, if you do not comply with the terms and conditions, the program can be terminated at any time, and your case continues as if there was never an agreement.

For more information about the Harris County DWI Pre-Trial Intervention Program, please contact us today for a free consultation.

Texas Underage DWI Penalties

In Texas, DWI laws consider anyone who is under the age of 21 to be a minor. In Texas , driving on the roads implies that you are giving police officers implied consent to check your breath or your blood for the presence of alcohol or other drugs. This means that just by driving, you are already agreeing that it is ok for an officer to ask you to take a breath or blood test. If you refuse to do so your driver’s license could be suspended for 180 days on the 1st offense and 2 years on the second. If you do not have a driver’s license, then your driving privileges will be suspended the same number of days or years once you become eligible. Now this doesn’t mean you have to take a test, it is perfectly legal, and sometimes smarter to refuse any test that an officer might want you to take.

Underage DWI penalties in Texas

Texas has a zero tolerance law for minors and alcohol. That means that if you are not yet 21, that you cannot have ANY alcohol in your system at all. Even if you are under the legal limit of .08. For a 1st offense you could face:

  • Suspended TDL for up to 2 years
  • A fine of up to $500
  • A class involving alcohol education
  • An ignition interlock in your vehicle if you do keep your license in some way
  • A possible additional suspension through a criminal judge
  • And any fines, court costs, probation fees, legal fees that might result from your arrest

If you do get a suspension it is possible to get an occupational license in Texas by going through the criminal court. Whether or not an occupational license is granted will depend on who the judge is, and the facts surrounding your case. If you are in this situation and have a question to whether or not you are eligible, please give me a call at 713-222-2828 and I will be glad to look at your case.

If you are in the unfortunate situation of being a minor (or being the parent of a minor) who is charged with an alcohol related offense, it is very important to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Many times there are fast approaching deadlines (like a 15 day deadline to request an Administrative License Revocation Hearing – ALR) that must be dealt with. If certain deadlines are missed, it becomes much more difficult and sometimes impossible to prevent the drivers license from being suspended for some amount of time.

Again, if you have any questions about your particular situation, please call my office at 713-222-2828 and I will do my best to advice you on your next steps.