New Law Helps Those Charged with DWI or DUI in Texas

Anyone charged with a DUI or DWI first time offense can tell you that the penalties can be devastating. They can lose their ability to work, and if it goes on their public record, it can severely dampen their capacity to find employment in the future. Thankfully, back in June Governor of Texas Greg Abbott signed a bill into law which will soften the harsh penalties and give accused persons a second chance in the eyes of the law.

This new law takes effect on September 1st and will give people recently charged with a DWI or DUI the chance to not have their charges be on their public records. The caveat is that after their two-year probation is over, they must choose to have an ignition interlock breathalyzer device for six months to make sure they are not driving while under any influences. This new bill extends to other low-level, low offense charges; these charges include nonsexual and nonviolent misdemeanors classified either Class A or Class B. The hope is that by decriminalizing lesser offense crimes the law won’t unfairly punish minor slip ups and can keep unnecessary stains off of citizen’s public record. This way people can still find work even after they go through a slight hiccup in their life choices. While this bill makes sure that a charge won’t go on someone’s public record, Ian Inglis Attorney at Law states that the base penalty for a first time DUI or DWI offense can be up to a $2,000 fine and six months in prison. There is a multitude of reasons that show that a breathalyzer test can’t always be trusted, so the possibility that someone could face such punishments from something that may not even be accurate is awful. This new law can provide some flexibility so that people charged can go back to getting on with their lives.

Personally, this law is a significant step in the right direction. For years I have thought that the current laws punishing people were too harsh and debilitating. Nobody should ever lose the ability to go to work just because of what could potentially be a misunderstanding. It is worth noting that this bill doesn’t reduce potential jail time or fines that come with a charge only that fact that a charge won’t go on a public record for the first offense. These fines and penalties can still be intense unless someone gets the proper legal representation to lower them.

A step in the right direction, this bill will help reduce the stigma that comes with a misdemeanor and felony charge to citizens trying to get their lives back together from a mistake in their past. With a second chance in the eyes of the law, statistics will show that public reform will skyrocket and that such a second chance won’t fall on ungrateful shoulders. However, it is still important for those who are accused of such crimes to adhere to the Texas laws in the future.

Read More

The Effects of a DUI Offense to Service Members

Driving under the influence of alcohol or any type of impairing drug (whether prescription or illegal) is a crime in all 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia. Regardless of how it is referred to, DUI, for driving under the influence, DWI, for driving while intoxicated, or some other name, it is a serious offense that is met with costly fines and harsh punishments. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol impairment is the cause of about 40% of all traffic deaths in the US.

While the effects of a DUI charge to a civilian can be devastating, to uniformed service members it can be doubly overwhelming since facing a civilian or a military DUI, or both, can impact their personal lives and military career. This is because even if a DUI incident and arrest have taken place off a military base and will be heard in a civilian court, the charge can be filed by both civilian and military authorities. Worse, even if the civilian court acquits a service member, he or she can still be subjected to punitive actions (based on the same incident and arrest) from the military, since the military normally has jurisdiction over any crimes committed anywhere by active duty service members.

Getting arrested for a DUI on base, however, can possibly result to the following, even worse, consequences:

  • First, though saved from facing a civilian criminal charge, the state is authorized, if it wishes to do so, to suspend one’s driving privileges or require the installation of an interlock device in his or her vehicle;
  • Second, be charged with drunken or reckless driving, which is stipulated under Section 911: Art. 111 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and be subjected to a court martial and administrative actions. A court martial can result to imprisonment, grade reduction, forfeiture of pay, or dismissal from service; an administrative action, on the other hand, can result to revocation of driving privileges, cancellation of pass, letter of reprimand, mandatory treatment for substance abuse, reduction in grade (depends on rank), corrective training (like a mandatory refresher course on military laws), or getting barred from being reenlisted. Repeated alcohol-related misconduct within a year can result to separation from service; or,
  • Third, be offered a non-judicial punishment (NJP), which is authorized by Article 15 of the UCMJ. Non-judicial punishment (or “Article 15” in the US Armed Forces and US Air Force; “Captain’s Mast” in the US Navy and the US Coast Guard; and, “Office Hours” in the Marine Corps) is a form of military justice which allows commanders to discipline the members of his troops.

According to Flaherty Defense Firm, uniformed service member can either accept non-judicial punishment or refuse it and choose a court-martial trial instead (in like manner, one loses his or her right to a court-martial trial if he or she opts for the NJP). Regardless of how service members choose to defend themselves, though, be it in a civilian court, a military court or before a commander, after choosing NJP, it will always be better if, during the preparation of their personal testimony and evidences, they are represented or assisted by a lawyer, who has extensive experience in litigating military cases.

Read More