Archive for January, 2015

Will Texas Lawmakers Seek Mandatory Interlocks after Child’s Death?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

If you or someone you know has been convicted of DWI, you may be familiar with an ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock device is simply a mechanism that is usually fitted within the dashboard of a person’s car, which requires the owner of the vehicle to provide a breath sample in order to start the car. If the person’s breath sample is above the set alcohol limit, the car’s engine will not start. Once the car is running, the device will randomly prompt the driver for additional breath samples. This feature is to make sure that the driver of the car is indeed the person who gave the initial breath sample. Otherwise, a sober friend could start the car for an intoxicated driver. If the driver of the car does not pass the second or subsequent breath tests while the car is running, the device will log the event and set off an alarm until a clean sample is given or the driver turns off the car.

In Texas, ignition interlock devices are not mandatory for first time drunk driving offenders. Judges, however, do have the ability to order that an offender have a device installed in his or her vehicle. Texas is not the only state that has this policy. Only 21 states have laws that require interlock devices for first time offenders. However, there are people hoping that Texas lawmakers take up the issue after the January death of an 8-year old boy.

Six years ago, a 2-year old boy was involved in a serious car crash after his mother’s sedan was rear-ended by the truck of a drunk driver. As a result of the crash, the boy lost 80% of his brain, which left him in a vegetative state. The driver, Stewart Richardson, had a blood alcohol limit that was almost three times the legal limit. The most horrific part of the story is that this was not Richardson’s first DUI/DWI conviction. Richardson had amassed seven previous drunk driving convictions in at least four states. In one of the cases, Richardson was the cause of a crash that injured five people.

After the accident, the young boy needed constant care. He lived daily strapped to a chair was on oxygen. He suffered from frequent bouts of pneumonia, including at the time of his death. The boy died this January, six years after the accident.

The family fought for tougher drunk driving laws and succeeded in passing what is known as the “Abdallah Kader’s Act.” The law named after their son which passed in 2011, increased the penalties from 10 years to 20 years for intoxication assault cases where the victim is left in a vegetative state. The law also increased the maximum penalty from 6 months to 1 year for DWI cases where the driver has a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher.

At this time, it is uncertain as to whether lawmakers will revisit the issue of mandatory interlock devices for first time drunk driving offenders.

If you have been charged with drunk driving, your first step should be to meet with an experienced Dallas County DUI/DWI Defense Attorney. Only a seasoned DUI/DWI Defense Attorney can explain your rights and review your case to determine what defenses you may have to the charges against you. As a former prosecutor, Jack Pettit has what it takes to fight a charge DUI/DWI and win. To see how Mr. Pettit can help you, call our office today at (214) 521-4567 to schedule a free and completely confidential consultation. Our office provides services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.

Dallas County Traffic Attorney Answers Some of the Most Commonly Asked Questions about Traffic Warrants

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

At some point in your driving career,  you will most likely receive a traffic ticket. Traffic tickets can be more than just a mere annoyance. If left unpaid, they can turn into a traffic warrant. This means, that you can be pulled over and arrested for failing to timely pay your fine. If you have unpaid traffic tickets or believe that a warrant may have been issued for your arrest, then you need to talk with an attorney as soon as possible. In the meantime, the following are some of the most commonly asked questions Dallas County residents have about traffic warrants:

Is there more than one type of traffic warrant?

Traffics warrants are of two types. An “alias” warrant is issued after a person fails to:

(a)    pay the traffic fine; or

(b)   appear in court on the date scheduled on the traffic ticket; or

(c)    appear in court for trial on the traffic ticket.

If a person appears in court and pleads “no contest” or is found guilty and then fails to pay or follow through with the court’s conditions, then a “capias” warrant will be issued.

When will a warrant be issued for an unpaid traffic ticket?

The simple answer to this question is it depends on which city issued the traffic ticket. There is not one set policy within Dallas County, so the amount of time can and does vary from city to city. For example, if a person receives a traffic ticket in the City of Dallas and he or she does not pay the ticket or take any legal action, an alias warrant will be issued for his or her arrest after 21 days. The 21st day being the day the hearing is set.

Why should I hire an attorney for a traffic warrant?  

For some types of cases, like a divorce or a DWI, people automatically think to hire an attorney to represent them in court. With traffic matters people often just pay the fine, which results in a conviction on their driving record and is likely to increase their car insurance rates. Unfortunately, many people are simply not aware of how an experienced attorney can help with a traffic matter. For instance, if an alias warrant has been issued for a person’s arrest, an attorney can post a bond on the client’s behalf. Often hiring an attorney is less expensive than if the person did not have an attorney and had to post a cash bond themselves. Once the bond is paid, the attorney will attempt to have the charges dismissed or if that is not possible, at least try to keep the citation off the person’s driving record.

What will happen if I do nothing?

Once a warrant has been issued, the waiting game begins. At any time you can be arrested. This could happen while you are driving, at home, or even at work. Once arrested, if you are unable to pay the fine, you will most likely go to jail. The State may also decide to file criminal charges against you for failure to appear.

If you have unpaid traffic tickets in Dallas County and believe that a warrant has been issued for your arrest, you do not want to delay matters any longer. With more than 30 years of experience, Dallas County Traffic Attorney Jack Pettit can help. Simply paying the fine can damage your driving record, which can raise your car insurance rates. To find out how attorney Jack Pettit can help you with your traffic matter, all you have to do is schedule an appointment by calling (214) 521-4567. Our office is conveniently located in downtown Dallas, across from the courthouse. We provide services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.

What to do if Your Teenager is Arrested for Underage Drinking and/or Driving

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Not many things can terrify a parent more than receiving a phone call in the middle of the night where the caller informs you that your teenage son or daughter has been arrested for drinking and driving. Upon hearing this news, part of you may be relieved to learn that your child is physically okay. But very quickly, that feeling of relief may be replaced with other emotions, such as anger and disappointment. Learning that your child is facing criminal charges can be downright devastating. However, there are things that you as a parent can do to make this bad situation better, including:

  • Do not panic: Many parents panic when they learn that their teenager son or daughter is facing charges for drinking and driving. Just the thought of their child being arrested and sitting in jail is enough to make any parent crazy. While panic is a normal feeling under these circumstances, it is not a helpful emotion for either you or your child. Important things need to be done and panicking will not help. Your child needs you to think clearly.
  •  Research attorneys: It is quite likely that when you learn that your child has been arrested, you realize that you do not know a single attorney. Or, maybe the only attorney you know is the one that drafted your will or handled your divorce. When a young adult is facing underage drinking and driving charges, it is critical that you hire only an experienced DUI/DWI attorney. While the other attorneys that may you know are probably very good at what they do, they are not criminal defense attorneys.
  • Schedule an appointment with a DUI/DWI defense attorney ASAP: After you find one or two attorneys whose practices are focused on DUI/DWI defense law, it is important to immediately schedule an initial consultation with each one. While it is importantly to act quickly, you do not want to hire the first attorney that answers the phone. You can learn a lot about an attorney and how he or she handles a case at this consultation.
  •  Do not let anger cloud your judgment: When you meet with a DUI/DWI defense attorney, is important that you listen to him or her not only with open ears, but also with an open heart. While you may still be furious that your child did what he or she did (despite your multiple conversations to the contrary), it important that you do not let anger cloud your better judgment. A conviction for underage drinking or DUI could follow a teen into adulthood. While you may be tempted to let your child your child learn his or her lesson the hard way—having a criminal record could severely impact his or her future. This is not to say that you should be “okay” with what your child has done, but there other ways to discipline him or her than to allow the justice system to dish out what is “fair.”

If your teenager has been arrested and charged with underage drinking or driving under the influence, the first thing you as a parent need to do is schedule an appointment to speak with an experienced Texas DUI/DWI Defense Attorney. Your child’s future is at stake, so do not just hire any attorney. For more than 30 years, Attorney Jack Pettit has represented clients in Dallas and throughout Dallas County. Mr. Pettit is a seasoned advocate who will take the time to carefully investigate the facts of your child’s case and make certain that all possible defenses to the charges are explored. To schedule a free and confidential consultation call our office today at (214) 521-4567.

Make Sure Your Texas Teen Understands the Consequences of Underage Drinking and Driving

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

Too many teens in the Dallas area and across the United States choose to consume alcohol. All too often, these teens do not realize the severe consequences that they could face if charged with underage consumption. As a parent, one of the best ways to discourage your teen from drinking is to educate him or her on the law. Many teens think that because they are “only teens” that the biggest punishment they could face is if their parents found out they had been drinking. Some teens do not even realize that they could be arrested and placed in jail for underage drinking and driving. Teens need to be made aware of how drinking (or drinking and driving) can affect their lives and their future, so they can make better choices. The following are a few of the consequences of underage drinking:

Underage drinking

A minor (a person under the age of 21 years of age) who is found to be in possession of alcohol, or has consumed any amount alcohol, or attempts to purchase alcohol can be found and charged with a Class C misdemeanor. He or she will also face the following penalties:

  • Fines up to $500;
  • Mandatory attendance at an alcohol awareness class;
  • Serve between 8 and 40 hours of community service; and/or
  • Loss or denial of driver’s license for between 30 and 180 days.

If the minor is 17 years of age or older at the time of the arrest, he or she can face fines up to $2,000 and jail time is also possible for a third offense.

Zero tolerance driving under the influence (DUI)

In the State of Texas, it is against the law for a minor to operate a motor vehicle if he or she has any detectable amount of alcohol in his or her system. This means that a minor cannot consume any beer, wine or liquor and drive a car, even if he or she is not intoxicated. A teen who has consumed alcohol and drives can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor and faces the following consequences for a first time offense:

  • Fines up to $500.00;
  • Serve between 20 and 40 hours of community service; and/or
  • Driver’s license suspension of up to 60 days.

This law not only prohibits a minor from driving a vehicle under the influence, but also a watercraft.

Driving while intoxicated (DWI)

If any person is found to be driving while intoxicated, which is typically measured by a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more, he or she can be charged with DWI. In Texas, a DWI is a Class B Misdemeanor, and the person faces the following penalties:

  • Fines up to $2,000;
  • Loss of driver’s license for between 90 days and 1 year; and/or
  • Jail time between 3 and 180 days.

Talk to your teenager and make sure that he or she understands the state’s zero tolerance policy.  Have the talk often and remind your teen to never get into a car with anyone who has been drinking.

If you receive a phone call that your teenager has been arrested for underage drinking or driving under the influence, it is important not to panic. The first and most important thing you need to do to help your child in this situation is to schedule an appointment to speak with an experienced Texas DUI/DWI Defense Attorney.  Only a seasoned DUI/DWI Defense Attorney can make sure that you understand the charges against your child and that he or she has an aggressive advocate on his or her side. With more than 30 years of experience, attorney Jack Pettit is the attorney you need if facing DUI/DWI charges. Mr. Pettit represents clients both in Dallas and throughout Dallas County. To schedule a free and confidential consultation call our office today at (214) 521-4567.