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Texas police may soon use breath tests to detect THC on drivers

Texas DWI attorney

How can police tell if a driver is under the influence of THC? Traditional methods have included the keen judgment of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), as we have discussed in a July 2019 post. This includes asking questions, observing suspects' behavior, checking suspects' pupils, and calling on suspects to submit to blood tests.

Determining someone's level of impairment from THC may be difficult, however. That's because THC can stay in a person's system for days after using marijuana.

Two researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have developed a device that may detect THC on someone's breath, according to NPR. Chemistry professor Alexander Star and electrical and computer professor Ervin Sejdic built the prototype in 2016. This came on the heels of several states legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

How does the THC breathalyzer work?

The device uses carbon nanotubes that are 1,100,000 the size of human hair. When a person blows into the device, the THC molecule binds to the nanotubes. Moreover, the device is sensitive enough to bypass alcohol and other substances and exclusively sense THC.

The developers have also placed a limit on how much THC the device can detect. This threshold may allow the device to differentiate between someone who used marijuana days ago from someone who is currently under the influence of THC.

Star says that the device is only one step away from mass-production.

Challenges posed by THC breath tests

A device similar to the one developed by Star and Sejdic has already been tested by police, according to NBC's Today. Hound Labs in Oakland, California developed the device. It can reportedly detect THC from all cannabis sources.

The use of a THC breathalyzer poses some legal challenges, however. For one, there is currently no standard legal limit for THC. Any amount of THC on someone's breath could potentially lead to an arrest.

Another legal issue posed by THC breathalyzers is reliability. Standard alcohol breath tests have led to DWI arrests and convictions for years. Investigations have revealed that these devices can produce inaccurate results. So, who's to say that a technical hiccup in a THC breathalyzer won't produce erroneous evidence against an innocent person?

If you were arrested and charged with DWI in Texas, the consequences can be harsh. A first offense can result in three days to 180 days in jail, a fine up to $2,000, loss of driver's license up to a year, and annual fees up to $2,000 to retain your driver's licenses. The penalties can be more severe for second and subsequent convictions.

That's why it's critical that you consult with an experienced attorney. Texas DWI attorney Amanda Webb can launch an investigation and help you devise a strong legal defense. To learn more, contact Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer online today.

Breath tests found to be unreliable, according to investigation

Texas DWI attorney

A New York Times investigation found that breathalyzers used by police around the country are faulty. Some were found to report test results as much as 40 times too high. In other words, legally sober motorists are being convicted of drunken driving. They now have criminal records, they may have been fined or lost their licenses or even jailed, and they are paying more for insurance.

The newspaper reported that toothpaste, mouthwash, breath mints, and hand sanitizer can prompt incorrect breathalyzer reports. If you burp during a test, it can also skew the results.

The Times discovered problems in the states of:

  • Pennsylvania: a judge called breathalyzer reliability “extremely questionable.”
  • Florida: a panel of judges described the machines as a “magic black box” that produced “significant and continued anomalies.”
  • Vermont: the state’s toxicology lab discovered inaccurate results on “almost every test.”
  • Massachusetts: nearly 29,000 DWI tests were invalidated after they were used to convict drivers.
  • New Jersey: more than 13,000 people were found guilty based on results from machines that had not been set up properly.

Humans cannot be trusted

Breathalyzers are finely tuned machines that require constant maintenance and calibrations. In some cases, law enforcement agencies lack the technical knowledge. In other cases, they lack the willingness to keep the machines in proper working order.

Some law enforcement agencies have disabled a machine’s safeguards for accuracy. They also make changes to machines that affect quality control. Agencies used outdated chemicals in testing or deliberately faked calibration reports, in other cases.

In Washington, D.C, the attorney general’s office decided against notifying some 700 people who had pleaded guilty to DWI that the machines used against them inflated results. In Massachusetts, officers used a machine that had rats nesting inside.

Trust an experienced DWI defense attorney

If you have been arrested for DWI in Texas, you face severe penalties. For a first-time offender, they include a fine of up to $2,000, three to 180 days in jail, loss of license for up to a year and an annual fee of up to $6,000 for three years to retain your license.

Fighting a DWI is not easy. Navigating the courts by yourself is tricky. The rules are complex. One simple mistake can undermine your case.

Texas DWI Attorney Amanda Webb has been representing people just like you since 1990. Based in Conroe, she also represents drivers in the Houston and the Woodlands areas, and Montgomery and Waller counties. A former prosecutor, Amanda Webb knows exactly what you are up against. She understands the law and is familiar with the courts. She will aggressively defend your rights in her pursuit of justice.

Contact her today for a free case consultation.

Police to ramp up efforts to crack down on DWI offenders this holiday season

Texas DWI attorney

There is no disputing that people tend to drink and drive more often during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. It starts with the night before Thanksgiving, which has been dubbed "Blackout Wednesday" and is now regarded as one of the biggest drinking days of the year. The season runs through New Year's Day.

In response to the uptick in drunk driving during this period, law enforcement will amp up its efforts to keep drunk drivers off the road. Unfortunately, those who haven't had anything to drink, or are driving within the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) range below 0.08 percent, are impacted by police crackdowns.

Texas police to increase patrols during the holiday season

According to one local source, police departments across the State of Texas have received grants from TxDOT to have extra officers on patrol. In addition, many officers will be working overtime to catch drunk drivers. These efforts are a part of a national crackdown on drunk driving, which is sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

All it takes is a slight traffic misstep to become a DWI suspect. Luckily, unlike many states across the U.S., Texas police are not allowed to set up sobriety checkpoints. Instead, they'll likely scan the road for certain behaviors that could indicate that a driver is intoxicated. These include:

  • Swerving or crossing painted lines in the road
  • Driving significantly above or below the speed limit
  • Failing to use signals
  • Tailgating other cars
  • Stopping or braking without an apparent cause
  • Taking abrupt turns
  • Failing to turn on headlights

While these driving behaviors may hint that a driver is driving drunk, they only give police a reason to pull drivers over. The observations and tests that come next may give them enough probable cause to make an arrest.

It starts with observations, including:

  • Listening for slurred speech
  • Watching the eyes for quick movement
  • Listening for delays in response
  • Smelling the scent of alcohol

Drunk-driving tests will likely follow

After making observations and asking questions, a field sobriety test and breath test will most likely follow.

Field sobriety tests are administered in three tiers:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus: The officer will move a small object (such as a pen or small flashlight) back and forth, and observe the driver's eyes.
  • The walk-and-turn test: During this test, the driver must take nine steps in a straight line while touching heel-to-toe.
  • The one-leg stand test: The driver must stand on one leg and hold his or her foot six inches off the ground and count until otherwise instructed by the officer.

Field sobriety tests, however, aren't as accurate as we think. Anyone who has been drinking can pass one of these tests with enough skill to do so. Any sober person who is fatigued, disabled, or lacks the physical coordination to complete the test can fail.

An officer will also likely administer a breath test. The results of a breath test may provide an officer with harder evidence. These results can be disputed, in some cases. Breathalyzers are known for being glitchy at times and yield false readings.

That's why it's best to stay vigilant this holiday season. If you are pulled over for any reason, you should always comply with the police. What you should avoid doing, however, is answering questions or trying to talk your way out of a DWI test or arrest. Speaking, no matter how innocent you may be, can only make matters worse.

If you are arrested this holiday season, let experienced Texas DWI attorney Amanda Webb do the talking for you. She has real courtroom experience helping those arrested for DWI fight the charges. To learn more, contact Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer.

Can a DWI constitute a felony charge? A Texas attorney says yes - Here's why.

Texas DWI attorneyIn most cases, DWIs are charged as misdemeanors in Texas. A first offense, for example, could result in up to 180 days in jail, driver's license suspension for up to a year, and a fine of up to $2,000, if convicted. The penalties for subsequent DWI charges can increase in severity.

In some cases, however, a DWI can be more severe and result in a felony charge. Factors in felony DWI charges usually include:

  • You're charged with a third DWI: If you were charged with a DWI for the third time in Texas, you could be convicted of a third-degree felony. Penalties include imprisonment of 2-10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • If someone was hurt in a car accident: Intoxication assault occurs when another person is seriously injured in a DWI-related car accident. This constitutes a third-degree felony.
  • If someone was killed in a car accident: Intoxication manslaughter occurs when another person is killed in a DWI-related car accident. This constitutes a second-degree felony, which carries imprisonment of 2-20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • You're charged with DWI while you have a child under age 15 in your vehicle: This constitutes a state jail felony, which carries 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Flaws in felony DWI charges

Any type of DWI charge can have serious legal consequences but if you have been arrested and charged with a felony DWI, it's critical that you consult with an experienced Texas DWI lawyer as soon as possible. With a felony charge on your record, you may lose your right to serve on a jury, own a gun and hold public office. In addition, finding a job may be difficult.

The bottom line in felony DWI charges (and all DWI charges for that matter) is: the prosecutor doesn't care whether or not you are actually innocent. If there is enough evidence available to convict you, fighting the charges may be difficult.

Not all DWI charges are as clear cut as you think, however. When devising a legal defense, your attorney will look for evidence of:

  • Inaccurate breath tests or defective breathalyzer devices
  • Inaccurate field sobriety test results
  • Lack of probable cause
  • Inaccurate BAC reading
  • If the arresting officer failed to read your Miranda rights

In the event you are stopped by police or suspected of a crime, it's important to remain silent and let an attorney at Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer do the talking. With such a serious charge, too much is at stake. Contact us online to find out how we can help you.

What does the new DWI law in Texas mean for first-time offenders?

Texas DWI attorneyA DWI arrest can happen to anyone who had a few drinks and then got behind the wheel. You might realize you made a mistake as soon as you notice the blue lights in the rear-view mirror, but should you live with the consequences of one error in judgment for the rest of your life?

Before a new law was adopted in Texas, first-time offenders convicted of drunk driving were unable to have their charges deferred through probation, according to KLTV. There were lifetime consequences and a first DWI offense also meant you faced the following penalties:

  • Probation
  • Up to three months in jail
  • $2,000 fine
  • A license suspension of 90 days to one year
  • License reinstatement fee of $3,000

Under the new law, a first-time offense of DWI means you are eligible to be offered deferred adjudication probation (as long as your blood-alcohol level was below .15 percent). This means after you complete the terms of probation you may avoid a formal conviction or have the case dismissed.

What is an ignition interlock device?

The law requires offenders to follow strict rules that include an ignition interlock device being installed in their car if the sentence is deferred. This is a device that prevents the car from being started if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath.

In addition, a first-time DWI offender who has been given deferred probation will face serious penalties if they are charged and convicted of a second offense. In addition to fines and the possibility of a jail sentence, a second offense of DWI is considered a class A misdemeanor.

A first-time offender who completes probation without a repeated offense will have the conviction erased. That’s a big relief for anyone who knows they made a poor decision and simply wants to get on with their life.

How can a DWI lawyer help if you've been arrested?

If you are arrested as a first-time DWI offender, you will want to seek the best possible resolution to your case. It’s important to contact an experienced DWI attorney as soon as possible. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you devise an effective legal strategy.

A first-time DWI arrest should not haunt you for the rest of your life. Fortunately, the new DWI law is on your side – and so is attorney Amanda Webb. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.