Author: Butler Law Firm

What To Expect For First or Multiple DWI’s

A Guide to Texas DWI Laws and Penalties

Everything is bigger in Texas and in some ways, that includes the DWI laws and penalties.

Navigating the DWI laws in the state of Texas can be difficult. The laws are complex, and there are multiple categories of DWI offenses and penalties that you need to be aware of in 2017. This overview will help you sort through the complexities of the law, and understand them better.

Texas interprets the term “intoxicated” as not being in full control of your mental and physical functions as a result of your consumption of alcohol or drugs, and/or having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher (for adults who are not commercial drivers).

When a police officer believes that a driver may be intoxicated, they need to establish probable cause, and must give evidence that the driver is actually intoxicated. Probable cause includes observing the driver’s behavior, speech, and appearance.

Butler Law Firm | Texas DWI LawThe police officer may use a field sobriety test, which can include blood and breath tests, which the driver does have the right to refuse. However, it’s important to note that there are “implied consent” laws in Texas, which means that when you drive on Texas roads, you are automatically consenting to sobriety tests. So while you can refuse the tests, your license will be suspended immediately if you do.

One fact that drivers are often unaware of is that a driver who is arrested for DWI will usually have two cases filed against them: a criminal case and a civil case. The criminal case is the most severe, with escalating levels of possible punishment, along with stiff fines and possible jail time. The civil case will be filed by the Department of Safety and usually results in suspension of the driver’s license.

3 DWI Offense Categories

DWI First Offense:

If you’ve never been convicted in a DWI case before, this is the typical charge you will face. First-time DWI offenses are considered a Class B misdemeanor, with a possible penalty of 3 to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. You’ll have your driver’s license suspended for a period of between 90 days to 1 year, depending on if you refused or failed the breath or blood test.

DWI Second Offense:

If this is your second DWI offense, your charge will automatically be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $4,000 plus a sentence of 30 days to 1 year of time in the county jail. License suspension will last from 180 days to 2 years. In some counties, a judge may require that your car be fitted with an ignition interlock device as a condition of your release pretrial or for probation. This device is like a breathalyzer attached to your car, which will prevent the car from being started until you breathe into the device and pass the test.

DWI Third Offense:

If you’re on your third DWI offense, the charge is instantly escalated to a third-degree felony, which carries a penalty of 2 to 10 years in the state prison, plus a $10,000 fine. Your license will be suspended for 180 days to 2 years. For all third or multiple DWI offenses the judge by law must require that your vehicle be fitted with an ignition interlock as a condition of a possible pretrial release or for probation.

Although these 3 main DWI offense categories appear fairly simple, other specific factors can greatly complicate the severity of the consequences. Such instances include: an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, a minor being present in the vehicle, an extremely high BAC, or excessive speeding at the time you were pulled over. These factors can raise the offense to an “aggravated DWI” offense, and the fines you’ll be subject to can be much higher. The charge could even be escalated to a Class A misdemeanor or a felony.

Aggravated DWI Offense Charges

DWI With An Open Container:

If it’s your first offense when you’re found with an open alcohol container in the vehicle, you’ll be subject to the usual first-offense fine of $2,000, but your charge will be raised to a Class B misdemeanor.

DWI With A BAC Of .15 And Above:

If your blood or breathalyzer test results are .15 or higher, you could receive an elevated charge of a Class A misdemeanor. The fine would be $4,000 and you could face up to a 1 year sentence in the county jail. A driver convicted of this type of aggravated DWI offense could, by law, be required to have an ignition interlock device fitted to his or her vehicle.

DWI With A Passenger Under Age 15:

If you are pulled over with a minor passenger in your car, even if the child is yours, and are found to be intoxicated, then the charge will immediately be escalated to a felony even if it is your first DWI charge. This aggravated DWI offense carries a heavy fine of $10,000 and up to 180 to 2 years in the state prison.

Intoxication Assault:

If you are responsible for causing severe injuries to another person while you are intoxicated, you will be charged with a third-degree felony. The penalty could be anywhere from 2 to 10 years in the state prison, and you could be fined up to $10,000. Most judges in Texas will mandate that an ignition interlock device be installed on your car for this aggravated offense.

Intoxicated Manslaughter:

If you take someone’s life while driving intoxicated the charge will be a second-degree felony, and face a penalty of 2 to 20 years in the state prison and/or a $10,000 fine. In Texas, most judges will also require that your vehicle have an ignition interlock device placed in it for this aggravated offense.

Even though these charge escalations may also appear fairly easy to understand, there is just no way to be sure how the district attorney will apply them to your case. The best strategy in your defense will need to be developed based on the unique circumstances of your particular case. The complexity of your case could be more involved depending on several factors, including the conduct of the officer or officers who made the arrest.

It’s important that your case be handled by a Houston Texas DWI lawyer who understands these complexities and has the experience to create a detailed strategy that will take advantage of all the factors of your case, and aggressively advocate on your behalf in order to get you the best possible outcome.

Possibly Facing DUI Charges and Their Ties to Marijuana

Marijuana Legalization Is Affecting How Police Determine DUI Charges

Driving under the influence, abbreviated DUI, is a widespread issue that affects people around the world. Drug usage can impair one’s judgment, slow down reaction times, cause memory loss as well as a host of other symptoms that make driving under the influence dangerous. Every state in the United States has laws that ban motorists from driving if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at a level above 0.08 percent.

Alcohol-related offenses are the most common types of DUI that a Houston drug lawyer sees; however, there are other DUI offenses as well. As more and more states decriminalize and legalize marijuana, there is a rising concern about marijuana-related DUI offenses. Police and law enforcement officials are currently trying to determine how to handle this type of driving under the influence offense in lieu of the standard BAC test.

Expanded Legalization of Marijuana

Marijuana also called weed or cannabis, is both a stimulant and depressant. Marijuana can be used for medical purposes and recreational purposes. Medical marijuana can help patients by reducing pain levels, improving appetite and preventing nausea. Recreational users use marijuana to experience a mild euphoria due to the physiological and psychoactive effects of cannabis.

Over the last several years, numerous states have passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes as well as recreational purposes. Four states have completely legalized marijuana. Another eight states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Another eleven states have decriminalized and made medical marijuana legal. Finally, five states have only decriminalized marijuana.

As a result of the decriminalizing and legalizing legislation, police departments, including New Canaan, Connecticut have experienced a rise in the number of marijuana-related DUI offenses over the last year.

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Butler Law Firm | DUI in Houston TexasStudies have shown that alcohol can significantly impact a motorist’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. Marijuana also impairs a driver’s ability to drive. One study found that marijuana reduces the peripheral vision of a user and gives them tunnel vision. THC, the psychoactive constituent in marijuana causes motorists to weave more while driving.

Additionally, combining alcohol with marijuana increased the effects of both substances. Drivers began to weave at lower levels of intoxication when both substances were used as compared to those who only used one substance. Furthermore, alcohol increases the absorption level of THC, which causes a stronger high from the marijuana.

Legal Actions and Police Actions

Currently, seventeen states have enacted “per se” laws which prohibit motorists from operating a motor vehicle if they have a certain level of THC in their system. The remaining states have standards that are less defined in how the police will handle driving under the influence of marijuana.

Alcohol intoxication is easier to determine through the administration of a BAC test. With marijuana, it is more difficult. Some police departments are using drug recognition experts that examine a motorist on the scene to determine whether they are too high to operate a motor vehicle.

As marijuana usage continues to rise due to the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, police agencies are working to determine how to keep the roadways safe from those under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.

What To Know About Your Misdemeanor Or Felony

The Difference Between A Misdemeanor And Felony

Butler Law Firm | Houston Misdemeanors and FeloniesA lot gets put on the line when you are charged for any kind of crime. From terms of imprisonment to community service, court-ordered classes and fines along with the long-term consequences that come with your record having a conviction on it, any criminal charge may threaten your future and freedom.

Our criminal defense lawyers Houston have decades worth of combined experience in defending clients that are charged with all kinds of federal and state crimes, which includes both felonies and misdemeanors. Although we aggressively work on every case that we work on, there are some distinct differences between felonies and misdemeanors that accused individuals need to be aware of.

Felonies and misdemeanors are the major offense groups for crimes committed in Texas. Those classifications are used for identifying how serious an alleged offense is, and determines what the potential punishment is. The two offenses have some key differences between them:


With a misdemeanor offense, the defining characteristic is that the punishment doesn’t carry a jail term of over one year – and it is usually in a county jail. Although every case is different and punishment might be affected by the unique circumstances that are involved, the common punishments that are carried by misdemeanors include the following:

  • Restitution, Court Fees, Fines
  • Court Ordered Treatment or Classes
  • Community Service
  • Probation
  • Imprisonment Terms (to not exceed 1 year)

In the state of Texas, there are numerous misdemeanor crimes, that range from simple assault and shoplifting to a majority of first and second DWI charges. Those misdemeanors also are classified into three distinct categories that are associated with the potential penalties and severity of the offense:

Class A Misdemeanor – Jail terms up to one year and fines up to $4,000.

Class B Misdemeanor – Jail terms up to 180 days and fines up to $2,000.

Class C Misdemeanor – No jail time and fines up to $500.


In most states felonies are classified as crimes that may result in one year or more at a state prison, or if it was a federal crime in a federal penitentiary. Felonies in Texas, include crimes punishable by imprisonment for a minimum of six months up to life, or in death in some cases. The most serious type of criminal offense are felonies, and they carry life-altering and severe penalties including the following:

  • Court Ordered Treatment or Classes
  • Probation
  • Losing Your Civil Rights (Gun Ownership, Voting)
  • Long Imprisonment Terms
  • Restitution / Hefty Fines

Apart from the harsh penalties that the court hands down, felonies are notable as well since they can seriously limit life opportunities for people. Frequently, felonies can end up being a stain that seriously impacts an individual’s ability to find a job and earn their living, or attend higher education or obtain funding. Also, felonies can hurt your reputation. There are 5 different levels of felonies in Texas:

State Jail – From 6 months up to 2 years at a state level, with fines up to $10,000.

Third Degree – From 2 to 10 years at state prison, with fines up to $10,000

Second Degree – From 2 to 20 years at state prison, with fines up to $10,000

First Degree – From 5 to 999 years at state prison, with fines up to $10,000

Capital – Life sentence, no parole or death

Other Factors To Take Into Consideration

Felony and misdemeanor crimes, in addition to their penalties, may vary widely, which will different on many different circumstances. The following are a couple of other important things that should be noted:

Wobblers – There are some crimes that are called wobblers, which means that prosecutors might have the discretion for charging a person with a crime as either a felony or misdemeanor. In those cases, it can be a very positive resolution to get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor.

Aggravating Factors – In both felony and misdemeanor cases, there can be certain aggravating factors that can elevate the penalties that an individual faces. In certain cases they can elevate a misdemeanor into a felony. Those aggravating factors may include crimes committed against certain people (vulnerable adults, children, law enforcement), crimes committed when on probation, criminal history and prior convictions.

Whether you have personally been charged with a felony or misdemeanor or someone you love, remember that both of these types of offense pose very serious long-term and immediate consequences, and need to be taken very seriously. Put your trust in our experienced and proven legal team as soon as you can after a charge.

If you want to discuss our case with one of the finest lawyers Houston has to offer, contact our firm or call us at 713-236-8744 for your FREE case consultation.

A Look At Houston’s New Marijuana Diversion Program

Harris County’s New Marijuana Diversion Program Sparks Debate

Citizens from all across the United States have led the charge for changing legislation governing the possession and use of marijuana. Today, several states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and several others have passed medical marijuana laws, allowing the compassionate use of marijuana by people with specific medical needs. Many states, counties, and cities have revisited antiquated drug laws in light of the failed “war on drugs,” and have decriminalized marijuana.

When Harris County officials announced a new policy at the start of the month, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of the drug, they initiated what many hope will eventually lead to total decriminalization of marijuana. Here’s the inside scoop on the county’s new Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program:

Individuals will no longer be arrested and charged with a crime for possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana, which means no court appearances or jail time.

Those facing misdemeanor possession charges will be placed in a decision-making class instead of facing jail time.

Those arrested for misdemeanor possession will have no criminal record upon the successful completion of the cognition decision-making course.

Harris County’s Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program officially kicked off on March 1, 2017. The program has the support of county officials as well as many local residents, eager to see the departure from draconian drug laws that overburden our criminal justice system. This support comes from those in law enforcement, the courts, and those running our prison systems. This program has the potential to eliminate as many as 10% of the cases that are currently on court dockets, according to county officials.

Harris County is expected to save substantial government funds through the diversion of these non-violent, low-level offenders whose crime is to use a substance that is completely legal in several states, has been decriminalized in others, and is widely accepted and used by tens of millions of Americans.

Butler Law Firm | Marijuana Diversion Program in HoustonMarijuana cases account for over 10,000 misdemeanor cases that come before the courts every year, at a cost of $26 million to prosecute. An additional, $2 million is spent by county crime labs for testing evidence connected to marijuana cases, $13 million is spent annually by the County to house suspects, who average 6 days in jail. Law enforcement officers log nearly 4 hours from the initial stop to the booking of suspects, valuable time that would be better invested policing other crimes.

Antiquated drug crime laws fail to address the underlying issue, act as a drain on government budgets, and place innumerable people into the criminal justice system that are otherwise law-abiding folks. The rolling back of these laws has become a nationwide trend that is garnering increasing amounts of support. Unfortunately, lawmakers in the Texas House and Senate do not agree with the approach.

Members of the state Congress were quick to speak out following the announcement of Harris County’s new policy, most of whom condemned the move. While the new policy is only concerned with the policing and prosecution of low-level offenses, Texas lawmakers have made the debate about more than only drug crime laws, they’ve also drawn into question whether local jurisdictions have any discretion when it comes to law enforcement. They believe that policy changes should only take place at the statewide level, which is unlikely to occur any time soon.

Other lawmakers, however, support that local officials have discretion in the crimes that they prosecute within their communities and jurisdiction. As they see it, local residents have supported the officials through their votes, so that they can have their voices heard on issues that are important to them. As Harris County has the belief that they’ll be able to protect public safety, end the overburdening of the criminal justice system, make more efficient use of public resources, and save significant amounts of money in the process, these legislators believe that Harris County’s policy shift is a reasonable one.

Although opinions do vary significantly, the fact is that the opinions about marijuana policy is shifting all across the nation, especially as the true cost of policing, prosecuting, and penalizing non-violent, low-level offenders is coming to light, as well as the impact that criminal records have on the lives of those convicted of the crimes. In Texas, Harris County is providing the leading edge of a new approach to drug crime enforcement.

While the new policy remains in effect, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s still possible to have legal problems for marijuana use and possession, particularly when higher quantities are involved, allegations of drug trafficking or sales is made, or when the arrest occurs in another jurisdiction. When you need a drug defense attorney Houston has the best. We can help you with any charges or criminal allegations that the government has levied against you.

Contact us or call now at 713-236-8744 for a free consultation to discuss the legal rights pertaining to your case.

The Effects A DUI Has On Your Auto Insurance

Butler Law Firm | Car Insurance and DWI HoustonHere’s How A DUI Can Affect Your Car Insurance Rates

Most people know the dangers of drunk driving, but even in today’s age there are people who drink and then drive. Even the ones that have managed to survive with a conviction will need insurance again at some point in the future. When you have a DUI in Houston and elsewhere, then insurance companies will consider you to pose a greater risk.

This means higher premiums. DUI insurance doesn’t exist, but we will tell you how your quotes for car insurance will be affected by a DUI conviction. Afterward, you’ll have a better idea of how a DUI can affect your insurance rates.

How Much Can A Conviction Raise Your Rates

In order to determine how much a DUI conviction can affect your rates, we researched quotes for a driver living in areas such as New York, Atlanta, Georgia, and Roselle. We used an example if a 30-year old male who is single and drives a 2014 Toyota Corolla. As you can see from our example, rates in New York City are expensive as they are, but one DUI conviction can increase insurance by almost $1,100.

In Roselle, which is located in Chicago, we found that there were similarities between their rates and the rates in NYC. In other words, rates were cheaper in Roselle than NYC, but the driver would still be hit with a similar increase for a DUI conviction. In NYC, the average increase was 35% and the increase in Roselle was 44 percent.

In Atlanta, the driver would incur a 31% increase in their insurance rate. As you can see, your insurance rates are heavily influenced by where you live. Regardless of where you live, a DUI conviction can greatly impact your insurance rates.

Other Factors

As previously mentioned, the example we used was of a 30-year-old male who is single and drives a Toyota, but there are other factors that can increase your insurance rates. Where you live is one of the biggest factors and whether or not you have a DUI conviction, as previously mentioned. However, we decided to look at GEICO and see how they calculate rates for drivers in Utah. Some of these factors include:

1. Age – Age is a major factor and an 18-year-old who has a DUI conviction from 12 months previous will pay 5% higher property damage premiums than a 30-year-old that has a DUI conviction 12 months previous. In fact, any person who is under the age of 19 and has one DUI within the last year will pay that much more than older people with the same profile. In short, younger drivers usually pay the most when they have a DUI charge on their record.

2. Time – Most insurance companies will look at your driving record and look at what’s on there from the last 3-5 years because this helps them get an idea of what your driving history is like. GEICO requires a clean driving record for at least 35 months before your premiums are not effected. For example, if you have a DUI conviction stemming from four years ago, then your Under-insured Motorist premium would be around 18% less than a driver who has had a DUI within the last year.

3. Number Of DUI Convictions – The number of DUI convictions you have had within the last three years is a huge factor. If you are 30 and you have four convictions, then you will pay about 58% more than a driver who has only one conviction. GEICO’s DWI calculation for someone who is 18 on Utah and who has four convictions in a year will pay around 110% or more than a person who is the same age, but has a clean driving record.

4. Companies – One of the most important factors is the actual insurance company you go through. Different companies have their own set of rules for dealing with DUI charges. This is why it’s important to get quotes from multiple companies.

The rates vary from company to company. However, one thing all companies have in common is that they will likely charge you more for insurance if you have DUI convictions within the last few years. Some charge far more than others, so if you’ve been convicted of DUI, then it’s a good idea to take your time when shopping around for car insurance.

A DUI can cause you much more problems than expensive insurance, but if you are lucky, then you may be able to get out of a DUI in Houston without suffering serious consequences. As you can see, there are many factors, alongside having a DUI, that can determine how much your premiums will be. As previously mentioned, if you want to get the cheapest car insurance rates possible, then you should compare rates. The only way to reduce your insurance premiums is to become a better and safer driver.

The Butler Law Firm is looking forward to answering any further questions you have regarding your or a loved ones DUI and what exactly it may entail. We encourage you to call us at 713-236-8744 for your free case consultation!

What To Know When Facing A DWI Charge

Know Your Rights And Steps During A DWI

If you have recently found yourself under arrest for a DWI, you may be feeling a wide assortment of feelings. However, one of the best things you can do is to put your feelings aside and educate yourself on the matter instead. Knowing what to expect and creating a strategy is the best option for you.

It goes without saying that there are serious consequences involving a DWI charge including the loss of employment and the possibility of a criminal record. You want the best possible outcome regarding your situation and our legal team has developed this comprehensive guide that will guide you through the process following your arrest.

1. Contact An Attorney

While this may seem to be an obvious step, there are a growing number of individuals who feel as though they can handle the situation on their own or have someone else hire their drunk driving criminal defense lawyer. You want to seek out someone who is going to fight for your legal rights and will assist you through the entire process, helping you beat the case. It is best to contact an attorney within the first couple of days following an arrest.

2. Keep Notes

There are several things you will want to right down about the day of your arrest. Where were you the better part of the day? Was there any construction that would have made driving more difficult? Where were you coming from when you were arrested? Who might have seen your condition before you got into the car? What foods and drinks did you consume? It is important to get all of these details on paper as soon as possible. This ensures that you will be able to answer all questions honestly and correctly in court. In addition, take all of this information to your attorney and discuss it with them. Another good strategy is to visit the area of your arrest as well as any other locations to help jog your memory of any important information. During the early stages, your attorney will help you with question and answer responses.

3. Know Your Dates and Protect Your License

One essential fact to keep in mind is to always remember all legal appointments and court dates. In addition, if you have failed to pass a blood or breath test, you need to take action within 15 days of your arrest or you are at risk of losing your license. You will need to contact the Texas Department of Public Safety and request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearing, in which you will need to confront the officer and plead your case before a judge. You must meet this deadline and appear professional at all times. If you fail any of the requirements, your license may be revoked.

A DWI arrest is truly a difficult and stressful experience for anyone. However, the proper legal adviser will be able to defend you in a court of law. It is important that you are proactive in this situation and hire an attorney that is going to have your rights in mind.

For your free case consultation, please call 713-236-8744! We are available 24/7!

Is PIP Effected By A DWI/DUI When Driving An Autonomous Vehicle?

Explanation of PIP (Personal Injury Insurance) in Texas

Butler Law Firm | PIP Insurance in Houston TXWere you aware that in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield, Weatherfold, Grand Prairie, or any other city within the state of Texas, less than half the drivers will carry personal injury protection or PIP with their insurance policy. In Texas, personal injury protection happens to be one of the benefits that are more expensive when it comes to what someone is able to purchase as far as insurance is concerned.

What personal injury protection does is help to cover the losses for any lost wages as well as medical bills which are incurred due to incidents involving vehicle accidents or which come from the use of any vehicle that is covered. This requirement is on which is set out in the Texas Insurance Code, it is found within Section 1952,151. For every insurance policy that is issued within the states of Texas it must be offered, and as stated in Section 1952.152 it is required.

This information has been compiled so as to better understand the Texas Insurance Code as well as Section 1952.554 and to inform readers of this section of the laws which are enforced by holdings within the Texas Supreme Court. Here it explains a few of Texas’s laws which deal with PIP and this section is entitled: “The Payable Benefits Regardless of the Collateral or Fault Source; the Effect on Subrogation.”

Here is what this section begins with:

a. Benefits under the required coverage found in this sub-chapter must be payable without regard to: (1) Non Fault or fault of the person insured or the recipient for contributing to or caused an accident; and (2) all collateral for the medical, hospital or wage continuation benefits.

Perhaps you are not sure what this means? What one means is that the PIP benefits are payable regardless of who is found to be at fault for the cause of loss. Regardless of who is responsible for causing the injury, whether it was you or someone else, in Texas the personal injury protection will cover the benefits. What the second means is the benefits of PIP will be payable regardless of whether a medical benefits plan already exists to help cover your bills, or a hospital plan which has already handled the bill. Even when you have had another disability or if there is another type of wage loss pay which is covering your lost wages, it will still pay lost wages. As a matter of fact, within Texas law this is the only place where this may even be a possibility.

The following section states:

(b) Unless Subsection (c) provides it, any insured that pays benefits under the required coverage in the subchapter will not be entitled to subrogation or to a claim against any insurer or other person to recover benefits due to alleged faulty of someone else who contributed or caused the accident in question.

This part (b) basically means that if you have PIP benefits and it shows that the injury or loss was someone else´s fault. Your insurance or your and the DWI lawyer will not be able to attempt to recover from their insurance company or them any money which has already been paid to you.

What the last section states is:

(c) Any insurer who per this subchapter is paying benefits, this includes any county mutual insurance company, will be entitled to subrogation and claim against the individual who contributed and caused the accident if, one the day of said loss, as noted in Chapter 601 the financial responsibility, Transportation Code, has not yet been established for a motor vehicle which has been operated by the same person and was involved in an accident.

Usually, the section (c) is in fact an exception to (b) where if the accident has been caused by another person, and said subject is not covered by what is required by law, which is the liability insurance in the State of Texas, the insurance company which is providing the PIP in Texas benefits and/or the DWI lawyer is able to pursue the person who is to blame for all of the money which has been paid to the PIP claim.

In closing, the question posed is do you qualify for PIP (Personal Injury Protection) when driving an autonomous vehicle and is it effected when getting a DWI or DUI in Texas? Let our firm answer any inquiries you have regarding this matter.

Please feel free to contact us or call us at (713) 236-8744 for your free consultation!

Has Uber and Lyft Decreased Getting a DWI In Texas?

The Stats of Getting A DWI In Texas And Uber/Lyft Services

You would think that there would be fewer drunk drivers with more hired drivers available. However, this conventional wisdom has been proven wrong by a new study.

After Lyft and Uber left Austin, Texas earlier this summer following the passage of a ballot measure that regulated their drivers, many supporters of the services argued that without these services there would be more drunk drivers out on the road. This could increase the risk for drivers getting a DWI in Texas. After the exit of the ride-sharing services, in May 2016 Austin had 359 recorded arrests for DWI, which was an increase from 334 arrests for the same time period during the previous year.

Butler Law Firm | Autonomous Driving and Houston DWIsAdvertising

Austin is only one of a couple major metropolitan areas where Lyft and Uber opened for business only to shut their operations down in less than two years. With only small figures spanning a short time period, it is difficult to say whether or not arrests increasing by 7.5 percent really represents a statistical blip, increased police vigilance, an uptick in drunk driving, or something else altogether. However, given how popular these services are (Uber in particular), it shouldn’t be too difficult to show where ride-sharing services have resulted in a decrease in drunk-driving fatalities – if not in Austin, then somewhere else.


Uber, in fact, hasn’t had any kind of significant impact. The American Journal of Epidemiology released a new study that found Uber being deployed into the country’s 100 most-populated metropolitan areas did not have an association with traffic fatalities – not on holidays or weekends, not those that drunk driving caused, and not in the aggregate.

The study was conducted by David S. Kirk from the University of Oxford and Noli Brazil from the University of Southern California’s Spatial Sciences Institute. Traffic fatalities were assessed prior to and following the advent of Uber from 2005 to 2014 in 100 different metropolitan areas (by county). The researchers controlled for different factors that might affect risk, including bans on texting, changes in driver licensing and state laws decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. Other factors that Brazil and Kirk accounted for included the tax rate on alcohol, The number of working taxi drivers in the metropolitan counties and monthly unemployment rates. When looking at the impact that Uber exclusively had on drunk-driving fatalities, the researchers found no impact.

The study stated that if potential drunk drivers were rational, then in theory reducing the difficulty of locating alternative transportation options and their costs, would reduce the amount of drunk-driving incidents and fatalities. This is what Uber and other transportation network services promise, especially when it comes to increasing transportation options.

Brazil and Kirk used three different models and found that traffic fatalities were not reduced by autonomous driving vehicles, or people deciding to utilize uber or lyft in any statistically significant way. This is in direct contrast to the convention wisdom that assumes that having more hired drivers should result in there being fewer drunk drivers. However, it does appear that the conventional wisdom is wrong. There are some theories from the researchers as to why this is the case.

Would-be Drunk Drivers Are Not Rational

The potential costs associated with driving drunk, for almost every driver, far outweighs how much an Uber fare costs. You could end up getting a DWI in Texas and end up jail for driving under the influence, accrue massive penalties, have to seek legal representation through a DWI law firm, wreck your car, or kill yourself or someone else. On the other hand, Uber isn’t so bad or expensive.

However, these potential costs are not necessarily weighed rationally by drunk drivers. As explained by the researchers, intoxicated drivers might be more likely to exclusively think about the odds. Drivers are ultimately not likely to get caught whenever they drink and drive – however they will definitely have to pay for a car tow, a parking ticket, an Uber fare or personal inconvenience when they make the decision not to drive. It is definitely a bad bet. However, that is the point: unfortunately drunk drivers tend to make very bad bets when they are intoxicated.

Uber May Be Big, But It Isn’t As Big As Drunk Driving Is

Across the U.S. the number of Uber drivers continues to increase astronomically. The number of Uber drivers out on the road every month has increased from January 2013 when there was a couple thousand drivers to April 2016’s 450,000 monthly drivers. If this service keeps expanding at such exponential rates, some day it may make some sort of dent into the amount of drunk driving-related fatalities and crashes.

However, for all of the press and hype over Lyft and Uber, these services drivers only represent a very small fraction of the total drivers out on the roads. In the U.S. there are a total of 210 million licensed drivers. Out of those, approximately 4.2 million adults drive while they are intoxicated on a monthly basis. Uber just not compare to these figures.

Drunk Drivers Do Not Consider Uber To Be A Substitute For Driving

The argument coming out of Austin that once Lyft and Uber left town that incidents of drunk-driving would start to skyrocket, was partly concern-trolling and partly genuine concern. After all, no one who made that argument was saying they planned to drive drunk if they couldn’t take Lyft or Uber. The worry was framed instead as a problem that other people faced. If other individuals were not able to take Lyft or Uber, they would end up driving drunk.

The researchers of the study that that although Uber might be a substitute for public transportation and taxis, isn’t a substitute for drunk driving. Uber passengers might be former public transit and taxi users,which means that there would not be a substantial change in the number of at-risk drivers out on the road. This substitutability has been suggested by previous evidence.

Uber Riders Might Not Be Typical Drivers

Passengers in the most highly populated metropolitan areas have other options besides Uber. Many prospective Uber passengers probably didn’t drive even before Uber became available. Instead they took rail, bikes, buses or taxes (and some still do). In the major metropolitan areas, Uber acts more as an expensive type of public transportation instead of a driving alternative. People who earn low incomes or live near public transit might not consider Uber as an option for them. Drivers who depend on their vehicles instead of using public transportation might not either.

The researchers concede that where Uber’s potential impact on drunk-driving fatalities needs to be studied further is in smaller towns. They state that Uber might have a greater association with the amount of traffic fatalities that occur in smaller area, since transportation options are more limited in these places. They add that investigators in future research should investigate whether the association between the presence of Uber and traffic fatalities depends on what alternative transportation options are becoming available.

Autonomous SelfDriving Cars DUI Proof?

The public awaits the day that we can go have a few drinks with some friends, call your car with a press of a button or voice command and get home safely, but how far are we away are from being able to do just that? Are we there yet?

Autonomous self-driving cars offer hope for a safer future. But there is a slew of ethical and legal challenges. The question of its implications for a DWI or DUI arrest rank high on the list of concerns. It boils down to a determination of the individual’s role in the operation of a vehicle. Some states such as Texas don’t have a clear definition.

There is no legal definition for operating in the penal code. Most people will be surprised by this when confronted with it in jury selection, the first place this crucial topic must be broached in the trial. In a jury charge, the judge will not provide a definition of operating. The jury will have to make that decision individually or as a whole to reach a verdict. That leaves it open to interpretation.

Seemingly, we are getting very close to this as drivers are being filmed sleeping while at the wheel. While Telsa is very advanced, it still is not a pure autonomous car.

Caught sleeping in traffic with autopilot

Uber Already Crashed A Self-Driving Car.

Let’s take the case of the accident in Tempe, Arizona involving a self-driving Uber car. The other driver was clearly at fault. It failed to yield to Uber’s self-driving Volvo SUV, landing the car on its side. Two other cars were damaged. Police didn’t charge the Uber driver, but cited the other one for a moving violation.

Unlike other accidents involving self-driving cars, this one obviously was more serious. After all, it takes a great deal of force to flip a car, let alone an SUV. Thankfully, no one was injured. What it shows is that accidents are unavoidable even with self-driving cars. And in Arizona, human intervention is required at least once per mile which raises another question.

How Do You Define a Self-Driving Car?

Let’s consider the question of driver intervention. It’s the law in Arizona law. Other states like California require a steering wheel and pedals with the expectation that a driver could take over. It’s uncertain if the Uber driver would have had enough time to act though the car was in self-driving mode.

Let’s consider what makes a vehicle self-driving first. There are six degrees of automation, according to the SAE International. Level 0 is you driving down the road with cruise control. Level 5 means that a car can do everything that a human can behind the wheel. And that’s a tall order. The current technology is at Level 2, so we have a way to go yet.

In general, SAE J3016™ levels and definitions include:

  • Level 0 – No Automation: The full-time performance by the human driver of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even when enhanced by warning or intervention systems
  • Level 1 – Driver Assistance: The driving mode-specific execution by a driver assistance system of either steering or acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver performs all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task
  • Level 2 – Partial Automation: The driving mode-specific execution by one or more driver assistance systems of both steering and acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver performs all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task
  • Level 3 – Conditional Automation: The driving mode-specific performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene
  • Level 4 – High Automation: The driving mode-specific performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene
  • Level 5 – Full Automation: The full-time performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver

But can it really take the driver totally out of the picture? And when does that happen? There exists an inescapable human element that state laws have recognized. The George Jetson vision of a vehicle operating without any operator is not the reality. You have to remember all that goes into driving.

Think about beginning a trip, picking a place to go, and starting the car. All these things involve human action. So what does that mean for our drunk Uber driver?  The question of a DUI or DWI then rests on defining what operating means.

So What Does Operating a Vehicle Mean?

There is some legal precedent to answer that question. Wisconsin, for example, has a precise definition of operating. It is anything from touching a button or starting any control.

(a) “Drive” means the exercise of physical control over the speed and direction of a motor vehicle while it is in motion.
(b) “Operate” means the physical manipulation or activation of any of the controls of a motor vehicle necessary to put it in motion.

Going to back to Arizona law, the requirement for human intervention exists for self-driving cars. It’s evident that had the Uber occupant been drunk, he or she likely would have received a DUI.

The courts have also considered this question. What’s the law when it comes to someone who is drunk and sitting in a vehicle that was not in motion? In the case of the Uber accident, the driver was behind the steering wheel. Even with a legal statute, the court’s interpretation remained cloudy.

There have been rulings on both sides of the issue, leaving it up to the court’s discretion. In light of the seriousness of these charges, a definitive scope is crucial. But you may wonder where the problem is?

Driver Control

You have to consider at what point does control exist. Texas law recognizes the individual’s position with the control of the vehicle. It doesn’t matter if it’s a steering wheel or control panel. If a human uses it, that means they can operate the car. Where the automation begins or ends isn’t important.

But is it necessary for a human to do anything? That’s another gray area. If a self-driving car malfunctions, human intervention is essential which is likely the thinking behind Arizona law. No one can predict whether that might happen. And it also means that a human can act if needed.

If you take a look at the following infographic you can how even a single disengagement while driving could be a huge concern.

Infographic: Self Driving Cars: How Often Do Drivers Take Control? | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista


Does the ability of the individual to act in case of malfunction mean the same thing as operation?

It suggests that it is an essential part of the self-driving experience from a legal perspective. It comes down to a choice. If someone who is drunk chooses to get behind the wheel, it means that he has broken the law.

What About the Ethical Considerations?

That raises more questions for our drunk Uber occupant. One involves the identification of self-driving cars. Let’s consider what it means if the law says it’s legal if a drunk driver is in a self-driving vehicle. Where does the law stand if an accident occurs with a sober driver? And does what about the passenger’s rights?

This dilemma puts manufacturers in a tricky position too. A major selling point of these cars is driver safety. But what about the safety of others? In the Uber case, two other cars were damaged. Then, there is the consideration of liability. Manufacturers will drive the technology to protect their interests without proper legal direction. The DUI is the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

What Are the Limitations of Self-Driving Vehicles?

By far, human error causes most accidents like the Arizona case. And it’s something that is hard to code into the operation of a self-driving car. With the way things are now, the driver plays an active role in the operation of a vehicle. That suggests that a DWI or DUI arrest is possible.

As the technology evolves, the role of the manufacturer comes into play. It’s possible that their potential liability will steer the course of technology. That may influence how the legal question of driver operation and impairment is answered.

According to Business Insider there are 6 scenarios self-driving cars still can’t handle covered by John Dolan, principle systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute

1. Driverless cars struggle going over bridges.

Raffi Krikorian, Uber’s engineering director, recently told Bloomberg that its driverless cars struggle going over bridges. That’s because Uber has meticulously mapped roads so that the driverless car can compare what it’s seeing with what is supposed to be there, helping it avoid objects and pedestrians.

2. Self-driving cars also struggle to “see” in inclement weather.

“Heavy snow and rain tend to confuse LiDAR sensors and also cameras,” John Dolan, principle systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, told Business Insider. “So you end up having some problems.”

3. Driverless cars struggle on roads without clear lane markings.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk vented about this problem to a group of reporters in October, according to the Washington Post. At the time, he showed the lack of clear lane markings on Interstate 405 near Los Angeles International Airport.

When driverless cars can’t distinguish the lanes, it makes it nearly impossible for them to drive or change lanes safely. Andrew Ng, chief scientists at Baidu, wrote in a Wiredpost that it will be necessary to make “modest changes to our infrastructure” for driverless cars to be successful on our streets.

4. Driving in cities is much harder for autonomous cars than cruising on the highway.

Dolan said it can also be difficult for the driverless car’s GPS to locate properly in cities.

“If you’re trying to do urban driving and depending on GPS to a large extent, then when you get into areas where there are a lot of tall buildings it’s hard to receive the GPS signal and you’ll have drop outs,” he said.

5. Robot cars can’t interact the same way humans can, which is problematic

Dolan said the same issue goes for merging on a highway or changing lanes. There are many ways we convey intention that disappears when there’s literally no driver in the front seat.

“We convey intentions in a way that result in natural interactions, rather than what you would call robotic interactions that would unnerve or frustrate a human being,” he said.

6. Driverless cars can also have trouble in high-speed driving situations

Dolan noted that when human drivers try to merge onto roads with cars traveling at higher speeds, they tend to inch forward to make sure it’s ok. Often, people will pull out in front of traffic under the assumption that cars will slow down for the merge, he added.

But a driverless car probably wouldn’t take that risk because if it projected the velocity of the upcoming car, it would pull back to avoid a crash, he said


The Future of Self-Driving Cars


It’s almost certain that manufacturers will put themselves in the driver seat. If there’s a question of human involvement, why not get rid of this factor? That is precisely the road that Google and NASA have done. Together, they are creating vehicles without human drivers.

Their research is looking at developing vehicles without steering wheels or manual controls. That’s important since it is essential for driver operation. It could pave a pathway for distracted or perhaps even, impaired drivers. Technology continues to make new roads. It’s clear that researchers are considering all the legal implications.

The answer to the question rests on two things.

First, the law must define operation. It must decide where and when it begins.

Second, it must take into account the evolving technology. What is clear is that technology is considering these issues. It will behoove the law to follow the same course.

Interlock Device

How Effective Are Ignition Interlock Devices For Preventing Drunk Driving

Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) has a long history of advocating for the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, starting with their first offense. They’ve held that technology is the best weapon available for avoiding the tragedies that are caused by drunk driving. In 2016, as part of their ongoing efforts, MADD began a study to quantify the effectiveness of such an approach.

Their conclusions were both encouraging and alarming. MADD gathered data from 11 different ignition interlock manufacturers and discovered that the interlocks, though still not in widespread use, had prevented 1.77 million attempts by drunk drivers to start their cars. Only a year later, they had stopped another 350,000 attempts, and since 2006 when MADD first launched their campaign aimed at eliminating drunk driving, 2.3 million drunk driving attempts were prevented.

As part of MADD’s campaign, the top priority has been to convince every state to pass ignition interlock laws for every drunk driving offender. The tiny devices, hard-wired into every vehicle driven by the offender, prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver’s blood-alcohol level is higher than a pre-set limit.

Today, every state has an ignition interlock law of some type. MADD’s stated goal is to convince every state that the most effective law is one which applies to every convicted offender from the first offense. When MADD first began their crusade, the only state that had an all-offender ignition interlock law was New Mexico. Today, encouraged by information provided by MADD, 28 states and the District of Columbia have adopted ignition interlock laws for offenders who have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher after their first offense.

MADD continues to be committed to encouraging the remaining states to pass similar laws and to assist every state at optimizing its laws to expand the use of technology to prevent drunk driving tragedies. By promoting the use of existing technologies with high-visibility law enforcement efforts, and the development of a more advanced technology for passive detection of alcohol on a driver’s breath, MADD hopes to create a nation of No More Victims. Support MADD in this effort by lending your support for their Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving.

If you have found yourself in a situation where you have been pulled over for a DWI, and need to get some answers to avoid having and interlock put on your car, get a free consultation from the Houston drinking and driving attorneys at Butler Law Firm.  Call today (713) 236-8744