Category Archives: Criminal Defense

Boating DWI (BWI) in Texas

Often, a day on the lake includes food and a cold beer or other form of alcohol.  While this is perfectly legal, it is important to keep in mind that most Texas DWI laws are in force when operating a motorized watercraft.  However, because the watercraft must be motorized, this excludes canoes, kayaks and other paddle boats operated by human force.

Unlike in the operation of an automobile, it is legal to consume alcohol while operating a watercraft.  However, if doing so causes you to have a blood alcohol level above 0.08, you may be arrested for a BWI.  Also, unlike in a DWI, a police officer does not have to have probable cause to stop you while operating a boat.  On the road, an officer must have reasonable suspicion to pull you over, such as for speeding or swerving.  But on the water, an officer may stop you at any time to check for an operator’s license or life jackets, regardless of the way you are operating the boat.  In the process, an officer may sense that you are impaired and may ask you to perform a field sobriety test.  A field sobriety test following a long day on the lake may present all sorts of problems for you as a driver, even when you are not impaired.  These include weak legs from waterskiing, bloodshot eyes from the water, red skin from the sun and more.

The penalties attached to a BWI in Texas are the same as for a DWI.  They include:

  • 1st conviction: A fine up to $2,000 and/or jail time up to 180 days
  • 2nd conviction: A fine up to $4,000 and/or jail time up to one year
  • 3rd conviction: A fine up to $10,000 and/or jail time up to two to 10 years

Furthermore, a BWI conviction can act as a first conviction for a subsequent DWI, making your first DWI a second conviction.

Being charged with BWI is a serious offense.  If you have been charged with BWI in Texas, it is important that you contact an experienced BWI defense attorney who can defend your case and help protect your rights.

Can I Get My Record Sealed?

With the advent of the Internet, access to personal information is easier than ever. When you apply for a job, a criminal background check is routine. When you apply for a mortgage or college admission, expect to have your background checked. For most people, this is not a problem. However, if you were charged with a crime in the past, it can prevent you from obtaining your desired goals.

In Texas, there are two options available to clear your adult criminal record, although both options have many restrictions. An expunction of criminal records may be available if:

  1. The charges against you were subsequently dropped
  2. You were acquitted
  3. You were found guilty, but the conviction was later overturned

The second way to clear your record is through non-disclosure. This may be available to you if you were granted a deferred adjudication probation. This means that you were not technically convicted because the judge did not specifically find you guilty of the offense. Instead, the judge found that there was enough evidence that a finding of guilt could have been made. Non-disclosure is available for some misdemeanors after two years.

In certain circumstances, you may not be eligible for either expunction or non-disclosure, such as if you completed straight probation or were convicted of murder or sex offenses. In those cases, the only ways to clear your record are to win a pardon from the governor or the president, or to file a writ of habeas corpus — long shot chances at best.

In you are granted either an expunction or non-disclosure, private individuals and businesses cannot learn about your criminal case. This means that you do not have to disclose this event on your job application, mortgage application, or college admission form. However, the police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other governmental enforcement agencies can still see the sealed records.

There are many excellent reasons to seal your record. Your best bet is to contact an experienced San Antonio criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.

Young Carefree Texas Drivers May Face DWI Charges

A rite of passage for any teenager is getting a driver license. For many, another rite of passage is drinking alcohol. The two are a deadly mix. As most know, teens make up the highest risk of accidents amongst all groups of drivers. On top of that, Texas unfortunately leads the nation in the number of accidents related to driving while intoxicated (DWI), with about 2,000 each year.

In Texas and across America, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) while driving is 0.08 percent. The legal drinking age is 21. Texas has a zero tolerance law for underage drinking. That means that a driver under the age of 21 with any detectable amount of alcohol has committed a violation. Young drivers account for many drug and alcohol related accidents because they reach higher alcohol levels more quickly than people with higher body weights and more experience digesting alcohol.

If a teenager (or anyone) is pulled over on suspicion of DWI and refuses to perform a breath or blood test, the driver license is usually immediately suspended for six months. The DWI penalties for teen drivers under the age of 21 can vary according to the amount of alcohol in their system, but the penalties generally are

  • 30 days suspension for a first offense
  • 60 days suspension for a second offense
  • 180 days suspension for a third offense

DWI convictions also carry a heavy financial penalty called a conviction-based surcharge. This is an ongoing additional fine that must be paid for three years and can be thousands of dollars. Teen drivers may also be ordered to attend alcohol awareness courses and perform community service.

Finally, teens need to be aware that they can face legal liability for their actions. Every driver in Texas owes a duty of safety to others on the road. A violator of this duty can be held legally accountable for his/her actions through a lawsuit.

Teens must be informed about the severe consequences of DWI. If your teen is facing punishment, it’s best to consult an experienced San Antonio DWI attorney to protect your teen’s rights.

Domestic Violence Legal Issues

Unfortunately, domestic violence (often referred to as family violence in Texas) is a common occurrence. Nearly 75 percent of all Texans have either experienced domestic violence themselves or know of a family member or friend who has. If you have been a victim of this crime, or know someone who has been, there is help available.

In Texas, domestic violence is defined as an assault by a person on a spouse, former spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or member of the same family or household. Victims of domestic violence should report the abuse to the police right away. If the situation is imminent, call 911.

Whether the perpetrator is arrested is up to the discretion of the police officers. The perpetrator can be arrested on either misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the severity of the actions and the injuries. Once you report the incident, you are not allowed to change your mind and drop the charges on your own. It is the prosecutor’s decision whether to pursue criminal charges at that point.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, consider hiring an attorney to help you file for an order of protection. The prosecutor may ask the court to put an order of protection in place in cases of domestic violence. When a protective order is issued, the perpetrator is not allowed go near the victim or the victim’s home or workplace, threaten the victim, or possess a firearm. Once a protective order is in place, the victim cannot decide to remove it — only a court can modify a protective order.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, reach out and get help. Texas has many laws and resources to support you and keep you safe. A San Antonio family law attorney may also be able to advise you.

Prohibited Weapons in the Lone Star State

Texas is a state of big ideas, big politics and big weapons. If you are a Lone Star State resident and love weapons, you need to understand that certain weapons are prohibited. You can get into big trouble with the law if you fail to comply.

Under the Texas Prohibited Weapons law, it is illegal to knowingly possess, manufacture or sell:

  • An explosive weapon
  • A machine gun
  • A short-barrel firearm
  • A firearm silencer
  • A switchblade knife
  • Knuckles
  • Armor-piercing ammunition
  • A chemical dispensing device
  • A zip gun

If you are found in possession of one of these weapons and are charged, you might have a defense if:

  • You were performing official duties of the armed forces, National Guard, governmental law enforcement agency or correctional facility
  • Your possession was pursuant to registration under the National Firearms Act
  • Your conduct was incidental to dealing with a switchblade, spring blade knife, or short-barrel firearm solely as an antique or curio
  • You were dealing with armor-piercing ammunition solely for the purpose of making ammunition available to the armed forces, National Guard, governmental law enforcement agency or correctional facility.

It is illegal to carry a firearm or prohibited weapon at the following places: schools, polling places, courts, racetracks, secured areas of airports, and within 1,000 feet of a correctional facility on the date of an execution.

Many people wrongly believe that if they forgot or didn’t intentionally carry the weapon in one of the prohibited places, their case should be dismissed. However, in Texas, the unintentional but reckless carrying of the weapon can be a violation.

You may apply for a license to carry. To obtain one you must be qualified to purchase a handgun under state and federal laws. You cannot have a felony conviction (or a misdemeanor conviction less than five years old), pending criminal charges, chemical or alcohol dependency, certain psychiatric diagnoses, restraining orders, or tax or child support defaults.

If you have questions about the legality of certain weapons, consult with a Texas criminal defense lawyer today.

How to Get Around with a Suspended License

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. We’re all familiar with that old adage. It applies to things we take for granted. Our driver license certainly falls into that category. Few of us remember that driving is a privilege, not a right.

If your driver license is suspended, the results can be devastating, especially in areas with no public transportation. Suddenly, you have no way to get to work, school, or church. If your license is suspended, it’s important that you pay all fines that have been assessed against you. If your suspension is the result of a conviction, you must also pay surcharges assessed by Department of Public Safety (DPS). These annual surcharges are typically paid every year for three years from the date of conviction. They can be quite hefty, often in excess of $1,000 to $2,000 every year.

If your license has been suspended, you may be able to apply for and obtain an occupational license, sometimes called an essential need license. This is a special type of restricted license that is issued to individuals whose driver license has been suspended, revoked, or denied for reasons other than delinquent child support.

An occupational license allows for the operation of a non-commercial vehicle to allow the driver to get to work, school-related activities, or to perform essential household duties. If you are interested in an occupational license, you must apply for one in the county where you reside or to the court of the jurisdiction where the offense occurred. There may be a waiting period based on the type of offense involved.

If you are able to obtain an occupational license, make sure you comply with the restrictions. While it may be tempting to do other errands and additional driving, don’t do it. You will only make matters worse if you get caught.

If your driver license has been suspended, consult with a DWI defense attorney to make sure you comply with all of the restrictions and to determine whether you may be eligible for an occupational license.