Monday, February 19, 2018
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Sherea Vitelli

Experienced attorney in the areas of family law, criminal defense, civil litigation, estate administration, and D.W.I.

Lawmakers look to curb DWI's in Texas

More than 30 states allow law enforcement to operate sobriety checkpoints, and if several lawmakers get their way, Texas could be added to that list.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence took up a number of bills relating to intoxication offences Tuesday afternoon.

Criminal defense lawyer, Jamie Balagia testified against the checkpoint legislation.

"A little over one percent of the cars pulled over for checkpoints get arrested for DWI.  They arrest them for a lot of other things, but if the goal is to stop drunk drivers, the dangerous and deadly drunk drivers, the roadblock is not the answer," Balagia said.

Opponents of the checkpoints argue that roving patrols do the job of catching drunk drivers, but Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Nacogdoches) says it isn't enough.

"It'll just be another tool in the belt of our law enforcement agencies when they deem it proper," Rep.  Christian said.

Rep. Christian's father-in-law was hit by a seven-time DWI offender.

"He was in intensive care for three months, came out and to this day he can't do the things he used to do," rep. Christian said.

During Tuesday's committee hearing, lawmakers also considered an ignition interlock bill.

The bill says that a breathalyzer could be put in the vehicle of first-time offenders.

"It's less costly to allow people out with interlock devices then it is to lock them in the jail system," Rep. Christian said.

"If an individual wants to drive drunk, he can just borrow someone else's car or disable the interlock device," Balagia argued.

The American Bar Institute, which represents nearly 600 restaurants in Texas opposes the ignition interlocks.

"The proposed interlock mandate fails to target the hardcore alcohol abusers that cause the majority of crashes and instead will force first-time dui offenders, even those just one sip over the legal limit, to install breathalyzers in their cars," ABI said in a statement.

The bills will need to be voted out of committee before heading to the house floor for a vote.  One lawmaker we spoke with says it may be too late in the session for this legislation to pass.

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