Every year the Texas Legislature passes new and amended criminal and DWI laws.  These are important to keep up with because it can greatly impact cases for current and prospective clients.

Here are some of the new Texas DWI & criminal laws for 2019. These laws will go into effect on September 1:

  1. DWI Deferred Adjudication Community Supervision (Probation) is now available for certain First Time DWI Offenses:
    1. HB 3582 gives a Judge the ability to grant deferred adjudication community supervision as long as the case meets certain criteria (i.e. first time DWI, not using a commercial driver’s license during the offense, the alcohol concentration is not 0.15 or more). This allows for a first time offender to have their case dismissed upon completion of deferred probation (previously all DWI’s resulted in a conviction if proven guilty) with the possibility of a non-disclosure down the road (sealing the case).
    2. Note: the State can still use the deferred as a basis for an enhanced second or felony DWI later on if the person is arrested on a subsequent DWI charge.
  2. DPS Surcharges are going away for certain traffic offenses, including DWI.  Up until now, if you were convicted of a DWI offense, the Texas Department of Public Safety would issue a surcharge under the Texas Driver Responsibility Program, which could range from $1,000 to $2,000 a year for 3 years depending on the specific charge.  The new law not only waives those surcharges, but also clears the way for many already impacted by the surcharges to be able to get their license back.
  3. Additional fines associated with DWI convictions:
    1. Even though the State has now eliminated the surcharges above under the Texas Responsibility Program that can take place after a DWI conviction (see above), they added an additional fine associated with a DWI conviction (Note: a Judge can waive them if you are shown to be indigent):
      1. $3,000 for the first conviction within a 36 month period;
      2. $4,500 for a subsequent conviction within a 36 month period; or
      3. $6,000 for a conviction if it was shown that the person’s alcohol concentration level was 0.16 or more.
    2. Important Note: the law only requires the additional fine upon conviction, therefore, a person who was granted deferred adjudication would not be required to pay these additional fines.
  4. Amended DWI Bond Conditions: HB 3582 states a Magistrate shall require on release (from bond) that a defendant charged with a subsequent DWI, or a DWI with Child, or DWI Intoxication Assault, or DWI Manslaughter have an interlock device installed on their vehicle in order to drive (they are not allowed to drive otherwise).
  5. Stealing Packages from a Porch is now a Felony (“Porch Pirates”): Starting September 1, it will be a state jail felony if a person steals packages from less than 20 porches (“Porch Pirates”).  Penalties increase depending on the amount of victims.
  6. Sexual Assault Kit Testing: HB 8 establishes timelines for processing and testing sexual assault kits. Kits will be analyzed within 90 days of receiving the evidence.  A felony prosecution where a rape kit was used will require the evidence to be preserved for at least 40 years or until the statute of limitations expires.
  7. Hazing: SB 38 redefines hazing to be more inclusive of certain actions, including drinking alcohol.  It also provides immunity for individuals who voluntarily report hazing in certain circumstances.
  8. Self-Defense Weapons: HB 446 makes it legal to carry brass knuckles, clubs, and self-defense wild kat keychains.
  9. Crime to send unwanted Nudes: HB 2789 makes it a crime (Class C misdemeanor) to send an unwanted nude when the recipient has not provided consent.
  10. Beer Delivery is now Allowed: HB 1232 now allows beer and wine retailers to deliver the goods right to customers.

Hoeller McLaughlin PLLC is a criminal defense law firm with offices in Fort Worth and Colleyville, Texas.  All of our DWI and criminal attorneys are former Tarrant County Criminal Prosecutors.  For more information on how we can help your case, call 817-334-7900.