Tag Archives: Texas Department of Public Safety

Spring Break partying hits high for college students

College Students head to beaches to party for Spring Break

Spring break for college students no longer holds a trip to grandma’s house or working an extra shift at the pizzeria. In the last few years thousands of students have instead headed to the beach for a not so innocent respite from the rigors of the college grind, one that is potentially life-threatening for many students.

English: People enjoy the beaches of South Pad...

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Spring Break and Drunk Driving Penalties in State of Texas

Laws to deter drunk driving over Spring Break

If you are one of thousands of spring breakers heading to the beach at South Padre Island next week beware, the police are on high alert to spot and arrest drunk drivers. Beginning today and stretching through March 17th more patrols will be on the roads to reduce drunk driving and DWI fatalities. The goal of the Texas Department of Public Safety is to reduce the number of DWI incidents.

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DWI: Reinstating my Texas Drivers License

Texas drivers who refuse to take a blood or breath chemical test after a drunk driving arrest may have their Texas license suspended for 90 days to 2 years. Commercial drivers who refuse a test will face an automatic one year license suspension. Drivers have the legal right to challenge the administrative license suspension by requesting an Administrative License Revocation hearing.

Texas Department of Public Safety

Texas Department of Public Safety (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What must be done prior to License Reinstatement?

 

Drivers who are not convicted of DWI may reinstate their license after the completion of the administrative suspension. Drivers who are convicted of DWI must complete the requirements outlined in their penalty phase of their conviction:

  • Complete an alcohol education program (programs must be authorized by the Texas Department of State Health Services)
  • Complete their potentially 2 year license suspension
  • Drivers who are under 21 years of age may be allowed to install a ignition interlock device and have their license suspended for 90 days. Community service is also generally ordered in these cases.
  • Pay all of the DWI fees and penalties

Reinstatement Requirements for Texas License

(Information provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety)

  1. First, all drivers must pay the license reinstatement fee
  2. Get proof of SR-22 insurance. This information must be sent to the Texas Department of Public Safety and must be maintained for 2 years from the date of the DWI conviction.
  3. Turn in proof that the driver has completed the Alcohol Education program. This information must also be sent to the Texas Department of Public Transportation.

As mentioned above, drivers who are arrested for DWI may face an administrative suspension and a suspension from a DWI conviction. These suspensions generally run concurrently.

Online Texas License Reinstatement

Texas has implemented an online system to help drivers reinstate their license. It is called the License Eligibility system. When you log in you can pay your reinstatement fees online as well as complete a license eligibility application.

The system will also outline all the requirements you must meet to reinstate your license: view compliance items, pay fees and track your eligibility status. To login you will need your driver’s license or ID number, the last four digits of your Social Security number and your date of birth.

If you cannot use the system but you can send your compliance documents (without fees) to the Texas Department of Public Safety all information can be mailed or faxed to the following address:

Texas Department of Public Safety

Enforcement and Compliance Services
P.O. Box 4087
Austin TX 78773-0320
Fax: (512) 424-2848
E-mail: driver.improvement@dps.texas.gov. E-mailed documents must be in PDF format.

Drivers who cannot pay their fees online must submit their compliance forms with their fees to the following address:

Texas Department of Public Safety

Central Cash Receiving
P.O. Box 15999
Austin TX 78761-5999

Please submit a check or money order only made payable to Texas DPS and include a copy of the suspension notice along with your full name, date of birth, and driver license number.

Drivers who have more questions about their license reinstatement process in Texas can contact the Texas Department of Public Safety or a Texas DWI lawyer.

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Drunk Driving and aTexas Occupational License

Texas drivers arrested for drunk driving in the state of Texas can generally get an occupational license which will allow them to operate a non-commercial motorized vehicle if they have had their license suspended.

When can I use my Texas occupational License?

 

The Texas Department of Public Safety allows an occupational license to be used “in connection with a person’s occupation, for educational purposes or in the performance of essential household duties.” Drivers who have had their license suspended for drunk driving are barred from driving for any other reason.

If you would like to apply for an occupational license after a Texas drunk driving arrest you must make your request for the occupational license in the district court in the county of your residence or in the court (who has jurisdiction) where the drunk driving offense occurred.

Remember, even if the court has provided you with the court order granting you the right to get an occupational license, you must first submit the court order along with the other requirements to the Department of Issuance of an Occupational License. DPS recognizes that it will take a few days to get your occupational license, and you can use the court order for 30 days while the Texas Department of Public Safety processes your request.

What do I send to the Texas Department of Public Safety?

 

  • You must send a certified copy of the petition and the court order granting the occupational license. The Texas Department of Public Safety states that “if the individual is participating in a special drug court program, the petition is not required. The judge has the authority to grant an occupational order.”
  • You must submit proof that you have purchased SR-22 insurance. There is a specific form that must be completed, and this is the only proof of insurance which is accepted by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
  • You must pay the occupational license fee for one year or less.
  • You must pay all reinstatement fees

Note: Rules for obtaining a commercial license vary. Contact the Texas Department of Public Safety if you have questions about how to reinstate your Texas commercial license after a drunk driving arrest in Texas.

Mail all forms to:

Texas Department of Public Safety
Central Cash Receiving
P.O. Box 15999
Austin TX 78761-5999

Other License Options in Texas

 

Texas also offers some drivers the option of installing an ignition interlock device and operating their motorized vehicle with a restricted ignition interlock license. The ignition interlock device allows drivers to blow a sample of their breath into the device, which monitors the amount of alcohol in their breath, prior to starting the car.

One benefit of the restricted license is the driver may have the freedom to drive wherever they want to drive without the restrictions of the occupational license. Of course, installing the device can be expensive and drivers must pay the applicable state fees. Drivers also cannot get this type of license if their license is expired, suspended or they have not paid the necessary fees.

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Drunk Driving in Texas and Commercial Driver’s License Penalties

If you are a commercial driver your license is very important to maintaining your livelihood, maintaining employment and supporting your family. What you may not realize is the state of Texas substantially increased the penalties for drunk driving with a commercial driver’s license beginning in June of 2005.

After June 1, 2005, Texas laws were updated to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Improvement Act. After this date, Texas drivers who are arrested for their first drunk driving charge, even if they are driving in a non-commercial vehicle, can expect to lose their CDL license for a minimum of one year.

Drivers who are arrested a second time for drunk driving in Texas will lose their CDL license for life, although the laws allow the driver to reapply after 10 years.

What if you are arrested for drunk driving in another state? Do not assume your Texas commercial driver’s license is safe. Most states have an agreement with Texas that they will report all DUI convictions to the state of Texas and you will have your CDL suspended.

Drunk Driving with a Commercial Driver’s License in Texas

 

Many drivers know that it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher, but what if you are driving a commercial vehicle? Drivers who are driving a commercial motor vehicle can be arrested for drunk driving (operating a motorized vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs) in the state of Texas if their blood alcohol content is 0.04% or higher.

Conditions that you can lose your CDL License for one year

 

  • Convicted of operating a commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol or narcotics
  • Refusing to submit to a blood alcohol content test
  • The blood alcohol content test determines the driver had an alcohol level of 0.04% or higher
  • The drivers blood alcohol content level was 0.08% or higher while operating a noncommercial motorized vehicle

 

If the driver is transporting a hazardous material when they are arrested for drunk driving the penalties will be for 3 years, instead of one (for first time DWI arrests).

Reinstating Commercial Driver’s License after Drunk Driving Conviction

 

Texas drivers may be able to reinstate their commercial driver’s license after the required suspension period. Contact the Texas Department of Public Safety for more information.

According to the Texas DPS Office, drivers must pay their reinstatement fees and review the reinstating license eligibility application for more information. Compliance documents (without fees) should be mailed, faxed, or e-mailed to:

Texas Department of Public Safety

 

Enforcement and Compliance Services
P.O. Box 4087
Austin TX 78773-0320

Fax: (512) 424-2848

E-mail: driver.improvement@dps.texas.gov. E-mailed documents must be in PDF format.

If mailing reinstatement documents, please allow 14 business days from receipt for processing. Please include a copy of the suspension notice along with your full name, date of birth, and driver license number.

If you cannot pay your fees online, compliance documents with fees should be mailed to:

Texas Department of Public Safety

 

Central Cash Receiving
P.O. Box 15999
Austin TX 78761-5999

Please submit a check or money order only. We do not accept cash. Make the check or money order payable to Texas DPS and include a copy of the suspension notice along with your full name, date of birth, and driver license number.

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DWI In Texas: What Happens When You Are Pulled Over

In Texas, Driving While Intoxicated, or DWI, (also known as DUI, or Driving Under the Influence, in other states) is a serious offense.  Regardless of whether you are stopped by a local Police Officer in Houston or San Antonio, or by a County Sheriff in Dallas or Austin or a State Trooper in Fort Worth or El Paso, or one of the thousands of law enforcement officer in any of Texas’ twelve hundred-plus towns, your Field Sobriety Test matters. As a matter of fact, one the District Attorney’s key pieces of evidence when presenting the case against you in court is the same evidence the arresting officer used to assess your sobriety.

The very name, Field Sobriety Test, hints at the many difficulties inherent in it: this assessment is done “in the field,” wherever the officer pulls you over. Even Standardized Tests given by doctors in laboratories can be subject to challenge. So one can just imagine the potential difficulties involved in administering a test roadside in varying conditions.

Before discussing these challenges, first we will review the serious punishments associated with for DWI convictions in Texas (as outlined in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website at www.txdps.state.tx.us). Texas enacted the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Program on January 1, 1995 to “suspend the driver licenses of dangerous drivers in a swift and sure manner.” The ALR sets forth two different sets of penalties, based on whether or not the suspect willingly provided the specimen (blood, urine or breath) requested by officers to determine the level of intoxication.

  • First DWI Conviction**:
    • Refusal to provide specimen: An automatic driver’s license suspension for one hundred eighty days.
    • Provided a specimen with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater: An automatic driver’s license suspension for ninety days.
  • Second and Subsequent DWI Convictions (if prior DWI conviction was in last ten years):
    • Refusal to provide specimen: An automatic driver’s license suspension of two years.
    • Provided a specimen with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater: An automatic driver’s license suspension for one year.

In addition to the above driver’s license suspensions, drivers who receive a DWI conviction for offenses that occur on or after September 1, 2003 are required to pay an annual surcharge for three years from the date of conviction.

  • First DWI Conviction: – $1,000 annual surcharge for three years
  • Second and Subsequent DWI Convictions – $1,500 annual surcharge for three years
  • DWI with Blood Alcohol Content .16 or greater – $2,000 annual surcharge for three years

Each of these above surcharges collected will be remitted to the Texas State Comptroller’s office. The Trauma Center and Texas General Revenue Funds receive ninety-nine percent of the revenue collected, while DPS receives the remaining one percent for the administration of the Driver Responsibility Program.

**NOTE: In some states, the terms DWI and DUI may be synonymous. In Texas, this is not the case. DWI refers to drivers age twenty-one and older arrested for driving while intoxicated. When minors (drivers under the age of twenty-one) commit the same offense, Texas refers to it as DUI. The penalties listed above are for DWIs committed by adults; the penalties for minors are identical for those refusing to provide a specimen, and slightly less stringent for those providing a specimen with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater.

If you did not see the importance of consulting with an experienced DWI attorney before reading these penalties, hopefully you do now. If you have been arrested for DWI in Texas, how can you afford not to hire a DWI attorney?  A DWI conviction means thousands of dollars in fines over the next three years plus loss of your license. Rest assured that the State of Texas will have plenty of attorneys at its disposal while preparing its case against you. Shouldn’t you have a DWI attorney preparing your case?

What Happens Before an Officer Makes a DWI Arrest

In all likelihood, a local Police Officer, County Sheriff or Texas state trooper pulled you over because you were driving unsafely.  Perhaps you were you speeding or changing lanes erratically. Perhaps your vehicle was not completely road ready, missing a valid inspection or registration sticker. Perhaps an important a safety feature of your vehicle, like your lights or turn signals, was malfunctioning or not being used properly. Or you could have been part of a routine traffic stop, during which police stop all traffic moving thru a checkpoint.

Once pulled over, if the officer suspected that alcohol or drugs (either prescription or illegal) might have impaired your driving, he probably gave you a Field Sobriety Test. This psychophysical test measures your basic motor and cognitive skills to determine if they have been compromised, either by alcohol or another substance.

From watching movies or television shows, most people know what happens during a Field Sobriety Test. Many states, though, do not have clear, written guidelines mandating that every Field Sobriety Test be administered in exactly the same fashion under controlled conditions.  Texas is one of those states lacking specific controls for the Field Sobriety Test. In fact, here is the treatment of the subject in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Web site in the

After contact with the individual is initiated, the officer develops probable cause to arrest the person for DWI. Specifically, if the officer has reason to believe that the driver is impaired, a set of field sobriety tests may be administered. If the driver performs poorly, the driver is arrested for DWI and transported to the police station.

Since Texas DPS doesn’t offer clear-cut guidelines for officers administering the test that will determine whether or not you are arrested for DWI, we will review the guidelines established by United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Just remember that a test given by a police officer in Arlington can be very different from a test given by a state trooper in Corpus Christi or from a test given by a county sheriff in Plano.

In any city, the officer may ask the suspect to complete any or all of these three tests:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): HGN refers to a normal, involuntary jerking of the eyes when looking sharply to side or the other.  Under the influence of alcohol or any drug, HGN can occur when the subject is looking straight ahead or just slightly to the side. During this test, the officer will ask the suspect to visually track a slow moving object (such as the officer’s pen or finger) and while watching for jerking of the eyeballs. Questions about the HGN test are compelling:
    • Results of this test are highly subjective and almost never video taped (if the officer’s squad car has videotaping capabilities, it will not be able to zoom in on the subjects eyes an the object being tracked).
    • Officers frequently administer this test at night, which makes close examination of the suspect’s eyes in poorly lit conditions difficult.

  • Walk-and-Turn (WAT): During the WAT, the officer asks the suspect to walk nine paces, heel-to-toe, along an imaginary line. Then the suspect pivots on one foot and repeats the test in the opposite direction. The officer watches for eight possible indicators of alcohol and/or drug influence:
    • taking an incorrect number of steps
    • making an improper turn
    • not touching heel-to-toe,
    • stepping off the line,
    • failure to keep balance during the instructions,
    • starting before the instructions are completed,
    • stopping while walking to steady oneself, or
    • using arms to balance.

Several factors could adversely influence the outcome of this test:

    • The surface of the suspect’s shoes: a suspect’s rubber soles can “grip” the pavement during a turn, also causing him to lose falter. Conversely, slick leather soles can cause the suspect to turn too quickly, causing him to lose balance.
    • Weather conditions can make balance difficult. For example, roadside pavement being slick from rain or snow or oil can create challenges to balance while turning.
    • High heels, whether on a woman’s shoe or a man’s boot, can make heel-to-toe walking difficult in any circumstance.
    • A suspect’s chronic leg or back problems may make balance during a turn difficult, as can obesity.
  • One-Leg Stand (OLS). During the OLS, the officer asks the suspect to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud from one thousand (one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.) until told to stop, usually for about thirty seconds. The officer watches for these four indicators of impairment:
    • swaying while standing on one leg,
    • excessive use of arms to balance,
    • hopping to maintain balance,
    • and lowering the foot before instructed to do so.

As with other elements of the Field Sobriety Test, important complications can arise during the administration of the OLS:

  • For a suspect not fluent in English, counting aloud may be difficult under ideal circumstances, especially counting in the thousands.
    • Suspects not guilty of DWI can be extremely jittery when confronted by police officers. Their anxiety may cause them to perform poorly on any type of test administered by an officer.

As familiar as most Texans think they are with the Field Sobriety Test, many are ignorant of some basic facts:

  • As noted above from the Texas Department of Public Safety website, once the officer observes you driving unsafely, he may begin to form an opinion about your sobriety before he even asks you for your license and proof of insurance. Although unsafe driving is never tolerable, it may have been caused something other than impairment by alcohol or drugs, like:
    • A driver’s conversation, either with passengers or via a cell phone;
    • A driver being focused on something inside the vehicle, like the music or temperature controls, a map or children in the backseat.

So you may have just been a poor driver prior to being pulled over, not a driver guilty of DWI.

  • Field Sobriety Tests are voluntary. No Texan can be forced to participate in one, although officers rarely advise drivers of this.
  • Any observations an officer makes before pulling you over, while interacting with you or during the Field Sobriety Test can be admitted in court, even though the officer does not read you your Miranda rights until arresting you.
  • For any Texas driver who has difficulty hearing, due to advanced age or a medical condition, complying with an officer’s verbal instructions on the roadside of a busy, noisy highway can be difficult.
  • Even something as simple as leaning on or pulling against your car door while exiting the vehicle can be interpreted by the officer as proof of impairment. But what if you needed assistance getting out of the car due to chronic back pain or sore muscles from a strenuous workout the day before?

This is just a brief discussion of why a Field Sobriety Test may not always be an accurate assessment of your sobriety. In a court of law, it will be your word against the arresting officer’s. Make an informed decision by contacting a Texas attorney experienced in Texas DWI law today. Your future could depend on it.

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