COVID-19’s impact on Texas DWI laws
Nationwide, there have been fewer DWI and DUI charges during the stay-at-home orders than during the same period in 2019. Although Texas has seen the same trends, the reduction in DWI charges is not as low as some law enforcement officials would expect. For Texas police, DWI and DUI enforcement continues as long as people continue to drink and drive. This may mean enforcement procedures and revoked driving privileges will continue as Texans face the Coronavirus outbreak.
To help you navigate difficult times, below is an outline of potential current and future implications of COVID-19 on Texas DWI laws. Post-Coronavirus changes may include strengthening DWI enforcement efforts and account for to-go alcohol orders from restaurants. If you have been charged with a DWI in Texas, schedule a free consultation with our firm today.
Current Status: No-Refusal Periods
Some common DWI enforcement tactics that continue through the Coronavirus outbreak are no-refusal periods. In Texas, no-refusal means resources are put into place to allow law enforcement to get warrants to quickly draw blood from suspected drunk drivers who refuse to give a breath or blood sample. These typically occur on weekends or holidays and are meant to deter drunk driving..
During no-refusal weekends, judges are readily available to review and sign affidavits for search warrant so officers can obtain breath or blood samples from drivers who do not consent. In some instances, this may constitute illegal search and seizure, especially if there is not enough evidence. Some Texas law enforcement officials indicate that no-refusal periods will continue as long as these efforts result in DUI and DWI arrests. Currently, DWI enforcement efforts are proceeding as planned as the Coronavirus recovery continues.
Current Status: Texas Alcohol To-Go Laws
In March, Governor Abbott waived restrictions on alcohol to-go pickups from restaurants during stay-at-home orders. This measure is meant to provide additional revenue to restaurants and help support their staff. The restriction states restaurants may provide kits for mixing cocktails, but the provided alcohol must be enclosed within a sealed container. Due to confusion, some restaurants may be offering alcoholic beverages in the traditional to-go cups without the proper sealing. In such cases, Texas drivers may be charged with open container violations and risk drunk driving charges as well.
Due to economic promise, alcohol to-go orders may continue after the Coronavirus outbreak passes. If that is the case, some Texas drivers may be ill-informed about how to carry, transport, and enjoy their to-go alcoholic beverages without risking legal trouble.
The easiest way to avoid potential charges is to ensure the alcohol comes in sealed packaging. If you must transport open alcohol, store it in a non-passenger area, like the trunk or pickup bed, so it is not easily accessible while driving. If an officer finds an open container near the driver or passenger seat, you may be charged with an open container violation and even be tested for a DWI or DUI. For this reason, all drivers, especially those with previous DWI charges, should ensure to-go alcohol orders are properly consumed and transported.
Post-Coronavirus: DWI Enforcement
Police may use to-go alcohol allowances as a means for expanding DWI enforcement. Drivers may make the mistake of drinking the to-go cups before or during driving, creating more DWI cases. To combat this, police may launch more-frequent DWI enforcement efforts to ensure drivers are not drinking and driving. As a result, more motorists may be charged with DWI.
Likewise, a full Texas business reopening may convince adults to “make up” for lost time spent at home by drinking more alcohol when out and doing so more frequently. Law enforcement may note these trends and schedule more-stringent measures to deter and intercept drunk drivers. These efforts may result in more vehicle pullovers and arrests for DWI suspicion. No-refusal periods may also become more common.
With new enforcement and DWI-related rules after the Coronavirus outbreak, hiring a DWI lawyer is more crucial than ever. An experienced attorney can help you navigate legal complexities like no-refusal periods and help build your Texas DWI defense case.
How a Texas DWI Lawyer Can Help
If you are charged with a Texas DWI, contact Varghese Summersett PLLC to help you understand and defend your rights. Our Texas DWI attorneys have defended hundreds of DWI cases and have extensive experience litigating issues related to intoxication, including breath and blood analysis. We’ll help you build the best defense possible.
Benson Varghese is an attorney with Varghese Summersett PLLC.