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Legislators in Austin, Texas consider new law that would permit victims to speak during pre-sentencing.

Austin, Texas – State legislators are considering a law that would permit crime victims to speak during pre-sentencing. Under current law, Texas is one of only two states to forbid victims to offer 'impact statements' until sentencing is complete. That means those who have been affected by a criminal, such as a rapist or a motorist driving while intoxicated in Texas, have little influence on the penalties handed down by the judge or jury.

Victims have a bill rights, access to a compensation fund and the right to speak to a defendant in the courtroom. Written statements may be submitted at any time though oral statements are not recorded by a court reporter or entered into the official court record. Defendants are allowed to have friends and family speak to the court before sentencing.

House Bill 167 would allow oral victim impact statements before sentencing. The intent is to make the victim more active in the legal process, rather than being limited to a witness. It would allow victims to let the courtroom know the human cost and suffering associated with the crime.

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Submitted on 2009-05-01 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
On April 22, 2006, the Houston Chronicle reported that Senior Officer William Lindsey, Jr. of the Houston Police Department's DWI Task Force earned $172,000 in 2005, topping the Mayor Bill White's pay of $165,000. The interesting twist in these earnings is that Lindsey's salary last year was $72,000, chalking up the remaining $100,000 to his overtime pay, and Lindsey is not the only officer benefiting in Houston. When the story first broke, many Houston citizens expressed concern regarding where the overtime money was coming from, and while there were some who felt the officers deserve this hefty overtime pay, there are others calling "foul." Unfortunately, for those who are wanting to eradicate this "problem," it stems from several different areas, making solving the issue rather difficult.
Houston, Texas Police DepartmentWhen a person is arrested for DWI, the majority of the time, a sobriety or field test is conducted at the site of the arrest in order to determine whether the person is intoxicated.  In smaller towns and cities, the majority of the officers on duty are trained to perform these tests.  This is different, however, for a city the size of Houston, where there time to train officers is lacking.  The Houston Police Department, therefore, has a special task force just for DWI arrests.  If an officer who is untrained to perform the sobriety or field test pulls a person over that he suspects is intoxicated, a call will go through to the DWI Task Force and one of the trained officers will come to conduct the tests.  The DWI Task Force officers work four days per week, Wednesday through Saturday from 9pm until 7am - the peak days and times for finding drunk drivers.  The problem lies when the people implicated of driving while intoxicated go to trial.  In smaller cities, the arresting officer is often the one who conducted the sobriety test and therefore can testify alone as to his or her findings when the arrest took place.  In Houston, however, both the arresting officer and the task force officer are often present because the arresting officer can only give testimony to why he pulled the suspect over, information the task force officer does not have first hand.  The task force officer can only give testimony to how the sobriety test or field test was conducted and the results because the arresting officer is not qualified to give that type of assessment.  

Any time an officer testifies in court they are being paid overtime.  In small cities or towns, only one officer is getting overtime for each Texas DWI case, but in cities like Houston, it becomes two or more officers per DWI case tried.  Additionally, since the DWI Task Force is small in comparison to the number of officers in the Houston Police Department, it is a select few that are continually on the trial dockets.  Some of these task force officers work overtime in the courts on their days off as well.  Critics of the system worry that many of the overtime hours are an unnecessary expense which have done nothing but increased mental and physical exhaustion and decrease effectiveness in these few officers, forgetting to put safety first where perhaps caution is most important.  

There are some that are concerned Officer Lindsey may be submitting inaccurate overtime pay requests - he was suspended for 15 days in 1990 for this exact reason and was paid more that $85,000 in overtime in 2004.  While this has not been subject to an investigation as of yet, there is a system of checks and balances that does exist within the department to ensure it does not occur.  Officers in the Houston Police Department are prohibited from working more than 16 hours in a 24 hour period, or more than 80 hours a week, without approval from the shift supervisor.  The shift supervisor is in charge of assessing each officer's fitness for duty at the beginning of each shift.  

Suggestions regarding how to lower overtime pay have been pouring in since the story first hit newsstands - suggestions ranges from adding more officers, to the task force to certifying every officer to perform sobriety and field tests, to having an audit run by the supervisor to ensure each officer's citations are not falsified in any way.  To date, none of the suggestions have replaced the existing methods, but Police Chief in Houston, Harold Hurtt, promised corrective action will be taken if it is discovered any foul play was involved in earning overtime pay.
Submitted on 2006-05-04 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)

Ignition Interlock Device As Texas Police Departments throughout the state and the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) continue the fight against drunk driving, a new advancement in an old technology may actually prove the most effective in combating repeat DWI offenders.  Smart Start, Inc., one of the leading manufacturers in the Ignition Interlock industry, announced in mid-January their attainment of the exclusive rights to a patented technology tying photographs into their pre-existing ignition interlock system.

The new device, appropriately named SSI 20/20, will be released this spring.  The upgrade also has new tamper detection capabilities preventing the user from placing tape over the lens as well as attempted disconnection of the camera.

The SSI 20/20 is mounted on the driver's side windshield, about halfway up from the dash board. The camera is connected to the hand-held portion and simultaneously takes a picture as the breath test subject taking the test.  The test measures the Blood Alcohol Concentration of the subject, and the picture is stored in the interlock unit's logger with a time and date stamp.

Texas currently holds the statistic of most DWI fatalities in the nation.  Smart Start, Inc. is hoping their technology will be a catalyst for changing this fact.  Research has already shown interlock systems reduce repeat DWI offenses by a margin of 40 to 95 percent, and this new technology, once available, is expected to further reduce repeat offenders.

Submitted on 2006-05-01 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
On June 14, 1990, the Supreme Court handed down their decision in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz regarding the constitutionality of a state program using sobriety checkpoints to prevent accidents caused by drunk drivers. The program was argued to be in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment guarantees "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Chief Justice Rehnquist penned the majority opinion summarizing "the balance of the State's interest in preventing drunken driving, the extent to which this system can reasonably be said to advance that interest, and the degree of intrusion upon individual motorists who are briefly stopped, weighs in favor of the state program." The Supreme Court held that the state's program was therefore consistent with the Fourth Amendment.
Texas Sobriety Checkpoints
Since this time, many states have included additional guidelines to supplement the Supreme Court ruling.  A few states now require advanced notice of these sobriety checkpoints, and others stipulate that a police study must be completed and a report composed in advance to explain why certain locations for sobriety checkpoints are suggested before an approval may go through.  In what has been a growing trend, there are now 39 states which utilize sobriety checkpoints as a means to curb drunk drivingTexas, however, is one of the eleven states that do not legally allow these roadblocks as a result of the decision made by the Texas court in Holt v. State (1994).  The court held that without express authorization and implementation by a statewide governing body, sobriety checkpoints are deemed illegal under the U.S. Constitution. The checkpoint upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Michigan v. Sitz was legislatively authorized, but since Texas has no legislation authorizing sobriety checkpoints and no statewide governing body to implement them, the operation of sobriety checkpoints are therefore illegal throughout the state of Texas. 

Recently, there has been much attention paid to the number of DWI tickets written annually in the state of Texas since it held the number two spot in alcohol-related fatalities in 2004 and from 2000 to 2003 was number one.  The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) has increased their task force attempting to make more arrests of patrons in bars to avoid the deadly mix of intoxication and driving.  These efforts have recently been scaled back as a result of public outcry, and now the Texas legislature, which gave TABC additional funding to make these contested arrests, must find anther means to lower the number of alcohol-related fatalities.  Notably, the Texas legislature could technically write a bill requesting the creation of a statewide governing body to "express authorization and implementation" of sobriety checkpoints as another means to reach their goal.  Whether such legislation would pass remains to be seen, but the option is there for its creation. 

Certainly, if such legislation were ever proposed, there would be those for and those against, but there comes a point where one must consider Justice Broussard's Dissent in Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987), a case tried in California which held sobriety checkpoints were legal according to their state constitution.  Justice Broussard disagreed with the decision stating, "To date we have not allowed mass detentions on the theory that these might prove useful in combating crime… While drunk driving is a revolting crime, it is not the only one which the community abhors.  If we abandon constitutional protections to combat every abhorrent crime which has captured the public's attention, we will find ourselves naked and unprotected in a hurry."
Submitted on 2006-04-27 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
In perhaps a bizarre twist it is now TABC who finds themeselves under investigation, not the bars they so frequently target.

Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission

After an outcry from tourism officials, the public and most notably Texas State Lawmakers over what TABC has labeled a "crackdown" on public drunkenness in bars, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has agreed to begin conducting an internal investigation. This does not however, mean an end to the arrests undercover officers will still be ticketing and/or arresting bar patrons who are deemed exceedingly drunk. Public Intoxication is a Class "C" Misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of $ 500.00 in Texas. More than 2,200 bar patrons or workers have been arrested or issued citations since August of last year. The purpose of this is to prevent people from getting drunk and hopefully lower the number of DWI's in Texas, especially in Austin. TABC has been doing stings in bars since 2001, but began doing more after getting additional funding from the Texas Legislature for about 100 more employees. Part of the reason this is causing such and outcry is because while there is a legal standard for DWI's, Public Intoxication is totally at the officer's discretion. There is to be a public hearing held regarding this issue on April 17th in Austin, Texas.

Submitted on 2006-04-10 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
This past fall the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) received additional funding from the Legislature to carry out a plan to crackdown on public drunkenness in hopes to decrease the number of drunk driving fatalities, a goal prompted by statistics confirming that Texans accrue more DWI tickets and fatalities than any other state in the union.

Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission

TABC increased their task force as well as the frequency of undercover visits into bars, the aim of this being to target public drunkenness in bars before people get on the roads. However, over the past month TABC and their efforts have been bombarded with vast amounts of national media attention. While many concerns continue to be voiced, tourism officials and some legislators claim the efforts to arrest highly intoxicated persons inside bars may be very bad for business.

TABC announced this past week that after taking the grievances into consideration, they have initiated an internal review of the program as well as a retraining of their officers. Commission spokeswoman Carolyn Beck has articulated that despite the internal review, TABC will continue to ticket patrons in bars if they seem especially drunk.

Additional concerns will be voiced on April 17th in a public hearing held by the Texas House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee.

Submitted on 2006-04-07 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
6 months ago the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission also known as TABC announced a crackdown on public intoxication. Since that announcement, more than 2,200 people have been arrested inside Texas bars which is something many bar owners and patrons are finding as a surprise.

Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission 70 Year Logo

This is the first time TABC has actually started targeting intoxicated patrons while they are still on the bars property. An issue that has some people claiming it is a violation of private property rights. The arrests not only included people who were drunk in bars, but also bartenders who sold alcohol to someone appearing to be drunk, and employees who appeared to be drunk on the premises of a bar or restaurant with a license to sell alcohol said Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for the TABC.

In August, 2005, TABC announced it was going to start using both undercover and open operations agents. Shortly after this announcement 36 bars were infiltrated and 30 people arrested in a Dallas suburb for public intoxication. TABC has been the force responsible for enforcing Texas alcoholic beverage code for the past 70 years. "The laws in Texas against public intoxication also apply to bars," Beck said. "Texas has the highest DWI rate in the nation, and we are trying to reduce those rates." In addition, TABC is trying to encourage bartenders to serve customers responsibly TABC feels the majority of why they are having to enforce the code so thoroughly is because "people still think that a bar is place to go get drunk," Beck said. "People can go into bars and have fun with their friends and not become intoxicated to the point whether they may become a danger to themselves or others."

After a TABC agent deems someone is publicly intoxicated they then are able to decide whether or not to cite the person for public intoxication and release them to "a responsible party." Or arrest the person and take them to jail. While one TABC agent is dealing with the drunk patron another agen is taking steps to arrest the employee or employees responsible for selling alcohol to an intoxicated person.

Full story of the Public intoxication stings catch 2,200 in Texas bars from the Houston Chronicle.

Submitted on 2006-03-28 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
The start of Spring break for students at different Texas Universities can mean an increase in drunk driving. The state of Texas wants to remind students to drink responsibly by creating DWI and DUI awareness programs.

Texas DWI Accidents on Spring Break

The start of Spring break for students at different Texas Universities can mean an increase in drunk driving. The State of Texas wants to remind students to drink responsibly by creating DWI and DUI awareness programs. Texas State University and the San Marcos police have created an alcohol awarness program. The program titled  "Know your Dreams, Know your Limits, Know the Consequences" uses a simulated DWI car crash scene in the center of Texas State University. Students and Safety Officials recreate a fatal DWI accident. Not only does the program include a wrecked car it also utilizes a Tow truck and Pennington Funeral home is "called" out to the scene of the would be accident. The Fire Department and EMS officials treat the actors as though they had been in an actual accident. The student who is acting as the fatality is extracted from the car using the jaws of life. Afterwards a hearse takes away the "deceased" and the would be parents are called out to the scene. This is the fourth year Texas State University police have staged the the mock accident. Texas police have said that in 2004 1,600 people died in alcohol-related accidents. "Hopefully [students] will take a sense of importance and how it can change their life and change their families' life if they're involved. Unfortunately, if they would be killed that'd be devastating, but if they were the driver of a DWI vehicle it's a tremendous hardship - close to $20,000 if you're arrested by the time you go through all the legal fees," University police chief Ralph Meyer said.

Full story of the 4th Annual Texas Spring Break DWI Mock Accident can be found at News 8 Austin.

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Submitted on 2006-03-22 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
Austin physician talks about his concerns regarding number of patients testing positive for alcohol, drugs and drunk driving.

2005 DWI arrests in largest Texas cities

The chief of emergency medicine a prominent Austin hospital said this week that 2 of every 5 people traumatically injured in motor vehicle wrecks and tested at his hospital last year were under the influence of alcohol.

"I have watched a continual stream of ruined and lost lives resulting from DUI and DWI accidents. Every one is tragic, and totally preventable," Crocker said asking what authorities are doing to reduce injuries and deaths caused by driving while intoxicated.

Austin Police Department data shows that DWI arrests were up 28% from 2000 to 2005, a period when the city's population increased 6%. In 2005, police reported 5,724 DWI arrests in Austin, more than police made in any of Texas' five other largest cities.

In fact, figures provided by individual police departments show that Austin police made significantly more DWI arrests per capita last year than Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth and El Paso.

Crocker said he was pleased to hear about the Austin DWI arrests but thinks that enforcement is still an issue he is also convinced that despite the high number of those testing positive, there probably would be more if everyone were tested.

Last year, Brackenridge Hospital cared for 723 injured auto drivers, testing 388 for alcohol and 250 for drugs.

In addition, Capital Metro now runs buses from college neighborhoods to the 6th Street entertainment district so students can come and go cheaply without risking a DWI in Travis County.

"We will make 6,000 DWI arrests in 2006, and there's still going to be a number of fatal accidents involving alcohol. The only way to impact that number is through community education." Austin Police Chief Stan Knee said

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show that alcohol was a factor in 46% of car wreck fatalities in Texas in 2004. In Travis County, more than half the traffic deaths in 2004 were attributed to alcohol.

For the complete article of 2005 DWI Arrests in Texas Largest Cities, follow this link.

 

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Submitted on 2006-03-20 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
Austin police have been compling a list over the last year of the most frequently mentioned bars and restaurants and then sending the information over to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The Austin American Statesman reported on Friday, October 14, 2005 that about a year ago, Austin police began asking drunken driving suspects a new question as part of their roadside investigation: Where did you have your last drink?

Officers began loggin the answers in their offense reports and compiling a list of the most frequently mentioned bars and restaurants.  Then they started sending the information to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The agency began investigating establishments on the list.  Since this spring, it has issued citations against at least five of them, and it is trying to yank the alcohol license of Dallas Nightclub on Burnet Road, which tops the list.  Forty people arrested for DWI since January have said they consumed their last drink at Dallas Nightclub.

Dallas Nightclub, which says the statistics unfairly imply that they knowingly serve drunken patrons, is fighting the agency's attempt to revoke its license.

"We aren't naive enough to think that we are going to stop drunk driving," agency Lt. Robert Saenz said.  "But if we can help reduce it, then we think we are contributing to this fight."

Austin is the first city to provide such statistics to the agency.  Saenz and other officials said they hope to persuade police in the other cities to do the same.

The list, obtained by the Austin American-Statesman this week, includes other well known venues.

Some cater to mostly college students, others to young professionals.  Some are on the city's outskirts, while others are in popular downtown entertainment zones such as Sixth Street and the Warehouse District.

According to the list, Dallas Nightclub was most frequently named by drunken driving suspects, followed by Cool River Cafe on West parmer Lane, where 27 motorist have reported consuming their last drink so far this year.  A manager at Cool River Cafe said he had been told by company officials not to comment.

Sherlock's Baker St. Pub & Grill on Research Boulevard and Chuggin' Monkey at 219 E. Sixth St. were next on the list.

Owners at Sherlock's Baker St. Pub & Grill, which was recently cited for serving intoxicated patrons, did not return phone calls seeking comment.  Managers at Chuggin' Monkey could not be reached.

Some bar owners and managers say it is unfair to use anecdotal, easily skewed statistics to launch investigations.

For instance, they say statistics do not account for different for different club's sizes and seating capacities.  They also say a larger police presense in an area can push establishments up the list.

"Certainly if you concentrate enforcement on a certain location, you are going to get more DWIs then in an area where you have less enforcement," said attorney Charels Webb, who is representing Dallas Nightclub.  "I'm certain the number is not an accurate reflection.  They are raw statistics."

TABC agents say their aggressive enforcement effort, which they are calling "Operation Last Call," is the result of a renewed partnership with the Austin Police Department and represents a shift in the way the agency investigates drunken driving.

 

 
Bar Name
 

No. of times
named by DWI
suspects
 

1.  Dallas Night Club 

40 

2.   Cool River Cafe

27 

3.  Sherlock's Baker St. Pub & Grill 

23 

4.  Chuggin' Monkey

14

5.  Rain on 4th Street

12

6.  Rodeo Night Club

12

7.  Yellow Rose

12

8.  The Library

12

9.  Oslo

12

10.  The Drink

10

11.  Oilcan Harry's

10

12.  Cedar Street Courtyard

9

13.  Lucky Lounge

9

14.  Element Nightclub

9

15.  The Dizzy Rooster

9

16.  Treasure Island Austin

9

17.  Tierra Caliente

9

18.  Desperado's

9

19.  Sugar's Uptown Cabaret

9

20.  Club Latino

8

21.  Paradox

8

22.  The Aquarium on 6th

8

23.  El Navigante

8

24.  Club Carnaval

8

25.  Fado Irish Pub

7

26.  Fox & Hound Smokehouse and Tavern

7

27.  Warehouse Saloon & Billards

7

28.  Blind Pig Pub

7

29.  Ringers Sport Lounge

7

In the past, agents often opened cases based on neighborhood complaints or tips from bar patrons who reported seeking intoxicated customers getting behind the wheel.

But after the Texas Sunset Advisory Commision -- which regulary evaluated the performance of state agencies -- expressed concern that Texas leads the nation in drunken driving fatalities, the Texas Alcholic Beverage Commission decided to change tatics.  The Legislature helped by approving money for 60 new agents statewide along with more support staff.

Sanchez said Austin police statitics give the agency "a better starting point, a place to look."  He said they follow up with investigations, including undercover operations.

Meanwhile, Austin police also have been working for months to help curtail drunken driving, which last year contributed to nearly half of the city's 73 traffic fatalities.

The Austin police department has added a citywide DWI enforcement team of 19 officers whose main responsibilitiy is drunken driving arrests, although patrol officers continute to make DWI stops.

To decide where to deploy the DWI team, department leaders began requiring patrol officers to question motorists about where they last drank.  Drivers are not legally obligated to answer.

"You want to attack the source of the problem," said Cmdr. David Carter, who heads the department's traffic enforcement division.   "If I don't know where the problem is, then I don't know where to put my people."

He said officers wanted to talk to state agents this spring to learn such things as which parts of the city had the highest number of alcohol licenses.

That's when police told agency representatives about the statistics they had begun gathering.

"We ran with it," Saenz said. "We understand that it is not scientific data. But we also understand that where there is smoke, there is fire."

The TABC targeted Dallas — the first club they investigated based on the statistics — this spring.

Saenz said many of the DWI arrests citing the club as the driver's last stop happened late on Wednesdays or early on Thursdays and that the club, which bills itself as Austin's premier country and western dance venue, promoted Wednesdays as "ladies night." The club served beer for 69 cents and other drinks for $1.69.

In March, state agents conducted an undercover operation and made a couple of arrests for public intoxication, Saenz said. When the number of DWI arrests involving Dallas patrons continued, he said, the agency filed a motion in June to revoke the club's alcohol license.

Webb, the club's attorney, said the club has raised some of its drink prices, not as an admission that the promotion was leading to drunken driving, but "to be responsible and look at all the possible causes.

"We believe the club is performing in a professional manner and controlling its crowds in a very professional manner," he said.

A hearing before a state panel has not been set, Webb said.

Last week, officials invited owners and managers of more than 10 other establishments on the list to discuss concerns.

At the meeting, Saenz said, officials said their goal was not to suspend or revoke alcohol licenses but to work with the establishments to find ways to decrease the number of drunken drivers, including limiting drink-price promotions.

Dave Pantano, the manager of Rain, a club in the Warehouse District, said he was unable to attend the meeting because he was hosting a charity benefit. He said he was surprised to learn that 12 people have reported leaving Rain shortly before getting stopped for drunken driving this year .

Pantano said employees are trained to spot customers who may be intoxicated and are instructed to no longer serve them.

"I don't want a person to leave here and hit somebody and get into an accident," he said. "We want to look after the customers as best we can."

OPERATION LAST CALL

Dallas Nightclub
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officials have filed a motion to revoke the club's license after agents said the club failed to do enough to combat drunken driving. The nightclub is fighting the move.

Cool River Cafe
State agency officials said they contacted the restaurant on West Parmer Lane earlier this year, and it later ended a promotion that may have led to more drunken driving. No drunken driving suspects since August have cited it as the place they last drank.

Sherlock's Baker St. Pub & Grill
State agency officials have filed a case against the club for serving intoxicated customers. Since January, police say 23 DWI suspects have cited it this year as the place they had their last drink.

Chuggin' Monkey
Austin police say 14 drunken driving suspects have reported this year that they consumed their last drink at the popular Sixth Street club, which seats about 477 people. Managers could not be reached for comment.

Rain on 4th
A club manager said that he was surprised and concerned to learn where the club ranked on the list and that he will review the club's policy on intoxicated patrons with bartenders.

Statistics of October 12, 2005

This story was reported in the Austin American-Statesman Friday, October 14, 2005.  Click this link to view the article "Police asking drunken drivers where they last drank."

Submitted on 2005-04-04 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
Judge Biscoe arrested for DWI after leaving Airport Bar & Grill.

Travis County Judge Samuel T. BiscoeTravis County Judge Samuel T. Biscoe was arrested at 10:47 p.m. on Wednesday for driving while intoxicated. Biscoe was stopped going northbound in the 5600 block of Manor Road, near Northeast Drive after an Austin Police Department officer reported seeing Biscoe commit several driving violations, including changing lanes without signaling, weaving and hitting the curb.

Biscoe was released from jail at 1:35 a.m. on a $2,000 bond.

The arresting officer reported Biscoe had a faint alcohol odor. Biscoe was polite and courteous, he was swaying, orderly and had bloodshot eyes, the officer said. Biscoe was also said to be walking, staggering and stumbling.

Biscoe said he had one glass of wine at a restaurant and one beer at a bar. He refused to take a Breathalyzer test.

"Well, thank God, I never said I was perfect, I always hope to become perfect one day. So, I am human and if you're consuming alcohol you really have to be mindful of the quantity. Really, if I thought I was intoxicated last night, I would've gotten a ride home with my friend or called a cab. But I thought I was alright," Biscoe said.

As county judge, Biscoe is the top county administrator. He oversees the county's budget and operations.

Biscoe graduated from UT Law school in 1973.

He was a Travis County Commissioner for nine years before resigning in December 1997 to seek the office of Travis County Judge.

He was elected Travis County Judge in November 1998 and still serves in that capacity.

Biscoe has no previous arrests for DWI.

Biscoe's case is expected to go to court September 10th.


Please go to News 8 Austin's website for full story and other releated articles for Judge Biscoe.

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Submitted on 2005-04-04 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
Charges against Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe are dropped by special prosecutor.

The drunken driving case against Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe should be dismissed because diabetes could have caused his coordination problems, prosecutors said.

Friday, September 30, 2005, special prosecutor Allan Williams announced charges from the August 2004 incident are dismissed.

The 58-year-old county judge was arrested and charged in August 2004 after an officer observed his vehicle drifting within a lane and failing to signal a lane change. According to the arrest affidavit, the officer noticed Biscoe's bloodshot eyes and a faint odor of alcohol, and the judge had difficulty balancing and following directions.

Biscoe refused to take a blood alcohol test but told the officer that he was on medication for diabetes and high cholesterol, the affidavit said.

"Because of the opinion of all of the medical experts, I have serious doubts as to whether Mr. Biscoe was intoxicated," Williams said.

All along, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe has stated he was not intoxicated when arrested on August 11, 2004.

Friday, he was vindicated.

"It's been one year of major distraction, agony at times," Biscoe said.

Judge Biscoe says now he's ready to put this all behind him and continue doing the county's business.

The judge had left the Airport Bar & Grill when he was stopped last year. He admits drinking that night and failed field sobriety testing.

His doctor says Biscoe suffers from Type Two Diabetes and a condition called peripheral neuropathy which causes poor balance in his legs.

Experts hired to investigate agreed.

"I have tried to better govern drinking, even at home since," Biscoe said.

The judge says he drinks even less now.

The judge, who has maintained his innocence, said he was satisfied the charge would be dismissed.

"The system worked as it's supposed to," Biscoe said. "I'm pleased with the result."

The police officer who arrested Judge Biscoe issued a statement saying he agrees with the dismissal.

For more information about this story and to view video of the charges being dropped, you can visit KXAN's website.

For additional information about Travis County Judge's DWI case being dismissed, visit the Austin American Statesman's webiste.

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Submitted on 2005-04-04 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)

Travis County Sheriff’s deputies will be out in full force for a DWI crackdown between now through Labor Day.

The Texas Department of Transportation issued a $25,000 grant to help pay for a campaign called "You Drink & Drive. You Lose."

“We're going to have deputies working extra shifts, over and above our regular deputies on the street. Our philosophy is if we arrest just one person who's intoxicated, we've saved somebody's life,” Travis County Sheriff's Office spokesman Roger Wade said.

The crackdown started Friday and runs through September 5th.

Penalties for a first DWI offense include

Up to $2,000 fine
72 hours to six months in jail
Loss of driver's license for up to a year
$1,000 annual fee for three years to have a valid driver’s license

Source: The full story can be found at News 8 Austin's website reported August 20, 2005.

Submitted on 2005-04-04 in  |  Permalink |  TrackBack (0)
Program targeted to decrease incidents of fatal traffic accidents reported by The Daily Texan on September 2, 2005.

Operation Summer's End will spring into action this weekend, to curb the number of Labor Day accidents that involve alcohol or aggressive driving on Austin roads.

Beginning Friday, September 2nd, the Austin Police Department will work with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on a major traffic initiative designed to prevent drunken and aggressive driving. The campaign will concentrate on the Austin downtown area, Interstate Highway 35 and MoPac Expressway, which are areas that were focused on in previous years.

APD will be employing their DWI Enforcement team, Highway and Patrol Response team, Vehicular Homicide team and the new Air 1 helicopter.

"The police department will be mostly focused on people driving aggressively or drunk," said Lt. Kenneth Cannaday, spokesman for the APD Highway Enforcement Command. Cannaday said the department will strategically place the BAT mobile, their Blood Alcohol Testing mobile, in noticeable downtown locations so that drivers will see it in use.

"We're trying to use a visible presence, so if people see the police they're more likely to be responsible," he said.

Cannaday said that people might consider other options such as having a designated driver or just not drinking at all.

According to APD Detective Ely Reyes, nine of the past 10 fatal accidents in the Austin area have been alcohol- or drug-related.

"Either the driver or victim have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even in fatal accidents involving pedestrians," Reyes said.

After surveying the most current accidents this year, APD saw a trend they wanted to attack more aggressively, especially over a holiday weekend, Reyes said.

Reyes, who investigates fatal collisions, estimated that half of the 39 fatal accidents this year have involved alcohol alone.

TABC will also help keep drunken drivers off the road by watching downtown bars closely. Cannaday said TABC has decided to check in at bars over the weekend to crackdown on how much alcohol they are serving and to whom they are serving. The agency will be searching for bartenders and servers who serve too much alcohol to customers or who serve minors.

"We know that students are going back to school and people are partying during the long weekend, but we want them to be responsible," Cannaday said.

In addition to drivers who may have been drinking, officers will also be looking for cases of road rage or for anyone driving erratically, "such as a motorcycle driving in and out of other vehicles," Cannaday said.

 

Source: To review the full article in The Daily Texan by Jimmie Collins click here.

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The Austin Police Department Central West Area Command (CWAC) District Representative Unit has been working with Dallas Night Club since the first of the year to help reduce DWI arrests in Austin. DWI arrests have occurred near Dallas Night Club. To reduce DWIs in this area, the CWAC District Representative Unit have been working with TABC, Yellow Checker Cab, Brown Distributing and Mr. Bill Thompson of the Dallas Night Club to develop solutions to reduce DWIs and DWI arrests.

On Wednesday night Dallas Night Club will launch the "Sound Attitude" program to recognize and reward the designated driver. Designated drivers who identify themselves at the door will be given a good sport wristband and a free soft drink or non-alcoholic O'Doul's. Designated drivers will also have the opportunity to receive prizes through a drawing. In addition, Yellow Checker Cab will have cabs readily available at cab stands to drive individuals home that do not have a designated driver.

The "Sound Attitude" program will kick-off on Wednesday, April 13th, from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the Dallas Night Club, 7113. Burnet Road. KASE 101 and other business community members will also be at the kick-off.

The Austin Police Department would like to thank Dallas Nightclub and Yellow Checker Cab for their invaluable assistance in developing this program. APD hopes this program will serve as a model for other nightclubs in and bars in the Austin area.

Source: Austin Police Department Public Information Office, April 13, 2005

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The Statesman talks about a troubling trend with Hispancis and an increase in DWI cases. This article was published in July of 2003. The Statesman included some graphs that help summarize the story.

This article in the Statesman indicates that latinos account for nearly half of 2002 Austin arrests. The article is by Calire Osborn and Andy Afford - American By Claire Osborn and Andy Alford AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF Sunday, July 20, 2003

The authors claim that Hispanics are being charged with more DWI's because:

 "Sociologists cite studies showing that Latinos tend to drink less often but in large amounts when they do. Some advocates for Austin's Latino immigrants say many migrants arrive unfamiliar with U.S. laws on drinking and driving."

....

What all agree on is that more needs to be done to discourage a deadly trend: One-third of last year's 71 traffic fatalities in Austin involved Latino deaths. Alcohol was a factor in 74 percent of the 23 Latino deaths in those wrecks.

By comparison, alcohol was a factor in 60 percent of the 42 fatal wrecks involving whites. Only two blacks died in wrecks last year. The ethnicity of four others who died wasn't indicated, and the information did not differentiate between drivers, pedestrians or passengers.

Below are two graphs that the Austin American-Statesman published with this article.  The source of information from the graphs were from the Austin Police Department and U.S. Census Bureau.

Drunken driving arrests

DWI by the numbers

It's a long article with a lot of useful content and references ....

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Motorists who drink and drive are involved in approximately 50% of fatal collisions and an equal percentage of serious injury collisions. After 2 a.m., it is estimated that two of every four motorists on the road are driving under the influence of alcohol. These disturbing statistics reflect a dangerous trend on our roads that the Austin Police Department is determined to reverse.

To increase enforcement of DWI laws and send a message to motorists who drink and drive, APD launched the DWI Enforcement Team in August 1998. The unit, which is under direction of the Traffic Administration Section, is comprised of eight patrol officers and one sergeant. As a dedicated DWI enforcement unit, the Enforcement Team is able to concentrate its patrol efforts on apprehending drunk drivers. Patrols focus on areas where DWI offenses are most likely to occur (entertainment areas featuring bars and nightclubs, for example) during times when most drunk drivers are on the roads (evenings, weekends and holidays). In addition, members of the Enforcement Team are able to provide support to regular patrol officers during peak offense times, relieving patrol officers by handling the lengthy processing of arrests.

The working relationship between regular patrol and the Enforcement Team increases the efficiency of the Department as a whole in removing drunk drivers from our roads. First, the Enforcement Team increases the number of patrol units on the streets, making apprehension of DWI offenders more likely. At the same time, regular patrol officers who make DWI arrests are able to turn suspects over to the Enforcement Team for processing through the system, allowing them to resume patrol duties and apprehend other DWI offenders. As a result, both the numbers of Enforcement Team and regular patrol DWI arrests have increased.

Source: Austin Police Department

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The Austin Police Department Highway Enforcement Command will be comprised of four specialized sections that will enhance enforcement and investigative efforts to ensure that the roadways of Austin are safe for residents and visitors.

The sections are Highway Patrol and Response, DWI Enforcement, Vehicular Homicide and Air Enforcement. Each section brings uniquely trained officers together to provide support for each unit and to meet the growing challenges of traffic issues within the city.

  • Highway Patrol and Response Section: This section will provide rush hour collision and stalled vehicle coverage on major highways as well enforcing commercial motor vehicle carrier laws and responding to collisions during regular duty hours and after hours. The Highway Response Team will respond to traffic problems on highways and major roadways based on statistical data that includes collisions. The team will work in conjunction with the other command sections and outside agencies.
  • DWI Enforcement Section: Officers will enforce DWI laws throughout the city.
  • Vehicular Homicide Unit (formerly Major Traffic Investigations): This unit will investigate fatality and serious injury collisions. The Wrecker Unit and Vehicle Abatement are also included in this unit.
  • Air Enforcement Section: Utilizes the department's helicopter, Air 1, to expand the role of traffic enforcement.

Seventy officers have been assigned to the command. The Highway Patrol Units will be utilized to help clear freeways following collisions to improve the flow of traffic and to relieve patrol officers so they may return to their duties in their area commands.

The public will also have the opportunity to share their comments and suggestions concerning traffic in Austin. A designated phone line - 974-4440 - has been established for motorists to leave a message about traffic trends and safety issues. HEC personnel will review the comments and address issues brought to their attention by motorists. Motorists leaving messages will not receive return calls unless there are follow-up questions or a need for additional information from APD personnel.

Source: Austin Police Department Public Information Office, April 4, 2005

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