Articles Posted in Driving While Intoxicated

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Starting September 1, 2019, Texas’ new criminal laws took effect. These new laws range from new fines in DWI cases to it now being illegal to send unwanted sexually explicit photos—better known as “dick pics”. Some of the highlights from the new laws are as follows:

HB 2048 – Texas now will not impose surcharges for individuals convicted of DWI offenses. However, the new law is not any better. The Texas Transportation Code now imposes fines for the criminal offense. A first offense within 36-month period carries a $3,000 fine; a second or subsequent conviction in a 36-month period is a $4,500 fine; and a first or subsequent DWI where the blood, breath, or urine shows a concentration of 0.16 or more will pay a $6,000 fine.

HB 446 – Texas now allows clubs, brass knuckles, and batons to be carried and are no longer illegal.

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dwi.jpgTwo intoxication manslaughter trials in San Antonio had many commonalities, but wildly different outcomes. Sandra Briggs had a blood alcohol level of 0.14 and Jenny Ann Ybarra had a blood alcohol level of 0.13. Both accidents occurred on Loop 410, Assistant District Attorney Charles “Chip” Rich was a prosecutor in both trials, and both were sentenced to prison. But, Ybarra was sentenced to 2 years while Briggs was sentenced to 45 years. It seems that, when it comes to punishment, irregularity and inconsistency play a large role during DWI trials in San Antonio. The difference between the two cases – Ybarra’s victim was a young woman and Briggs’ was a San Antonio Police Officer.

Briggs, 59, was arrested in October 2010 and she was convicted of a first degree felony on January 20, 2012. She admitted to drinking at Bunratty Pub and stated that she had five drinks in about four hours. On her way home she hit a disabled pickup truck that was stopped near the Military Drive exit of Loop 410. She then ran to into Sergio Antillon, 25, an off duty rookie police officer, who was standing about 10 feet from the truck. He was pinned between Briggs’ car and the guardrail. He died two weeks later when he was taken off life support. She stated that there were no flares on the road and the pickup truck was partially in the right hand lane.

Briggs pleaded no contest to intoxication manslaughter and the trial, which was held at the 186th state District Courtroom, was a punishment only jury trial. Criminal Defense Attorney Edward Piker argued that there were more than just the drinks that played a factor in the wreck, including the darkened roadway and the fact that the disabled truck was blocking part of the lane. The Bexar County jury deliberated for about four and a half hours before handing down the punishment. She has to serve at least half her sentence and is eligible for parole at the age of 81.

Ybarra, 32, was sentenced to a second degree felony on February 15th, 2012, for the early morning accident in December 2007 that claimed the life of Erica Nicole Smith, 23. She had been out with friends that night and had not been driving. She had planned to stay the night at a friend’s house, but decided to drive home at about 3 AM so she could be there in the morning when her daughter woke up. Ybarra unknowingly drove the wrong way on Loop 410 and had a head-on collision with the car that Smith was riding in. While, on the surface, it seems that this was a very cut and dry case, there were several factors that contributed to the accident.

Sabrina Shaner, the driver of the car that Smith was a passenger in, was also intoxicated at the time of the accident. In addition, it was found that the paramedics delayed help to the victim. EMS left Smith untreated for more than two hours because they assumed she was already dead. Smith would die of massive head trauma. The three San Antonio paramedics had their certifications suspended in 2008 because they did not immediately check on Smith.
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wanted dead or alive.jpgIn a modern twist of the Old West’s wanted posters, twelve digital billboards around San Antonio, Texas are now showing the names and pictures of individuals who have warrants for felony driving intoxicated related offenses with the word “WANTED” directly above the person’s name. In addition to showing the face and name of the suspect, the billboard also lists the specific felony offense they are charged with. The billboards only show individuals who already have an active warrant for their arrest.

According to the San Antonio Police Department, there have been approximately 3,500 driving while intoxicated related offenses so far in 2011. Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the use of the billboards which are being donated by Clear Channel Outdoor.
The billboards are not the only recent efforts law enforcement officials have implemented this year. The San Antonio Police Department working in conjunction with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office are now making all weekends and most long holidays, such as the week of Fiesta, “no refusal” weekends. This means if an individual arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated refuses a breath test, the officer will get a warrant to draw the individual’s blood. Defense attorneys practicing in Bexar County have also noticed the plea offers for all DWI’s have increased.
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