Texas May Change DWI Laws

The Texas legislature is considering modifying the state’s driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws. According to John Whitmire (D-Houston), the system is broken.

Texas is the nation’s leader in DWI fatalities. In 2009, 1,269 people lost their lives in DWI-related accidents.

Past Attempt to Stem Drunk Driving

In 2003, Texas amended the DWI laws to allow for a $3,000 surcharge, in addition to fines and court costs, in order to help pay for trauma care. A second offense would allow for a $4,500 surcharge. However, the result was offenders not paying the surcharge – currently the state is still owed $54 million by offenders.

However, the surcharge was not meant to be the real penalty, a bar on the renewal of an offender’s license who was behind on payments was meant to be the real deterrent. The actual consequence of the bar was an increase in the number of people driving without a license.

Possible Changes

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo is calling for a preventative approach to the issue. He suggests mandatory blood alcohol tests for drivers suspected of drunk driving and sobriety checkpoints.

Sobriety checkpoints are legal in 39 states, but they are not without their critics who claim they are too intrusive. A law permitting sobriety checkpoints passed the Texas Senate last year, but did not make it out of the Texas House.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) supports chief Acevedo’s position on sobriety checkpoints, but would also like to see ignition interlocks used in offenders’ vehicles. Ignition interlocks require a breath test before a car is able to be started.

Creating treatment programs for first-time offenders is another option that is being considered.

Regardless of the changes that ultimately result of the discussion, one thing is certain – lawmakers appear to be focused on lowering the number of DWI fatalities on Texas roads.

If you have been accused of drunk driving, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney.