Impaired Driving-Related Bills & Joint Resolutions - 85th Legislature (2017)
HB 1: Toxicology lab funding as part of the appropriations bill
HB 67/275/2068 & SB 90/SB 661: These bills would all eliminate the Driver's Responsibility Program by repealing Chapter 708 of the Transportation Code. This would eliminate the point system and surcharges in Texas.
HB 58: This bill would create a new chapter of the Government Code titled the "First Chance Intervention Program." It would create a new specialty court program for those charged with their first instance of posession of marijuana under Section 481 of the Health and Safety Code. Those who complete this program, which would be either 60 or 90 days in length, will be assessed a program fee of $100. The charge and/or conviction would not show up on the defendant's record. Those in the program will be ordered to perform 8 hours of community service or participate in an 8 hour cognitive class.
HB 81: Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana would only be a civil fine up to $250 with no arrest and no criminal record.
HB 82: Similar to HB 680 below, this bill would create a new Class C misdemeanor for possession one ounce or less of marijuana. Currently this would be a Class B Misdemeanor. This bill also provides that if someone is convicted of possessing marijuana three or more times within 24 months of a fourth offense, then the fourth offense is a Class B even if the amount is an ounce or less.
HB 90: This expands imposition of a court cost of $60 upon conviction of an offense punishable as a Class B misdemeanor or higher to support drug court programs established under Chapters 122, 123, 124, or 125 of the Texas Government Code. (costs are currently assessed only upon conviction under Chapter 49 of the Penal Code [DWI] or Chapter 481 of the Health and Safety Code [drugs]).
HB 117: This bill amends the community supervision statute to allow judges to require defendants to use a ethyl alcohol monitoring device in any case where a the judge is allowed to order defendant to install an IID. The judge may order a monitoring device in lieu of an IID. If a defendant fails to comply with an IID order, the judge must consider requiring an alcohol monitoring device. The bill also defines ethyl alcohol monitoring device.
HB 140: This bill would reestablish what is known as the “ten year lookback limitation.” Eight years ago, this limitation was repealed and prosecutors were allowed to enhance any DWI with a provable prior DWI conviction in the defendant’s life. If the limitation were to be reestablished, offenders are essentially given a clean slate if they can make it 10 years without a DWI conviction. The ten year lookback limitation is the law in most states.
HB 293: This bill would amend Section 484 of the Health and Safety Code, which currently prohibits the selling of mislabeled abusable synthetic substances. These are substances that are not regulated by state or federal law. Think of basement chemists that design drugs specifically because they do not fall within state and federal prohibitions. Then they slap a misleading product name on them, such as "bath salts." HB 293 would add the internet to the definition of a "business" under Section 484.
HB 459: This bill relates to the part of Section 708 of the Transportation Code which covers license suspensions for the nonpayment of surcharges. Currently, the statute allows DPS to inform the driver that his license is suspended 60 days after the second notice of nonpayment is sent. HB 459 would change this procedure so that, under the same circumstances, a justice of the peace MAY inform the person that his license is suspended. Thus, the decision would fall on a JP, and not be an automatic suspension imposed by DPS.
HB 680: This bill would make possession of .35 ounces or less of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor. Currently, the law is that possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor.
HB 684: This bill would add to the notice requirement when a surcharge is assessed. Specifically, it adds the requirement that information related to the surcharge waiver for indigency under Section 708 of the Transportation Code must be included in the surcharge notice. Section 708 states that all surcharges must be waived if a person is indigent.
HB 1016: Relating to the deferral and reduction or waiver of certain surcharges assessed under the driver responsibility program
HB 1275: This bill amends Chapter 49 of the Penal Code (Intoxication and Alcoholic Beverage Offenses) by creating a criminal penalty for violating a bond condition, a condition of community supervision or a court order requiring a defendant to install an ignition interlock device. Under new Section 49.091, a person commits an offense if the person violates a bond condition imposed under Art. 17.441 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (requiring an ignition interlock device), a condition of community supervision under Art. 42A.408 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, or a court order under Section 49.09(h) of the Penal Code. The offense is a Class B misdemeanor unless it is shown at trial that the defendant was previously convicted of this offense in which case it is a Class A misdemeanor.
HB 1327: This bill would increase prosecutors’ ability to seek higher punishments for intoxication manslaughter defendants. Texas Penal Code 49.09 prescribes certain aggravating factors that can increase the punishment range for intoxication manslaughter and assault cases. For example, if the person killed was a service officer or if the injury sustained by the victim resulted in a persistent vegetative state, the punishment range is increased. HB 1327 would add new factors that would increase the fine range in intoxication manslaughter and assault cases:
HB 1436: This bill would have no substantive effect on the law. It would simply make the open container language in Section 49 of the Penal Code more clear and usable. It essentially would change the language to anything other than a factory sealed container from an alcohol beverage manufacturer.
HB 1677 & SB 1244: Creation of Vision Zero Task Force. This group would consist of 16 people to come up with a plan to "eliminate" traffic deaths in Texas by 2050. They would submit their report to TxDOT by September, 2018.
Blood Warrant Bills - These three bills would make it easier for police officers to obtain blood warrants, decrease the workload on judges already permitted to sign blood warrants, and simplify the law on blood warrants.
HB 1322: This bill specifically allows justices of the peace to sign blood search warrants in every jurisdiction. Blood warrants are generally only issuable by record courts, so this bill would add an exception.
HB 2458: This bill is broader than HB 1322 and would allow ANY magistrate to sign blood warrants. This would include all justices of the peace as well as non-record municipal court judges and any judge that is a magistrate under the CCP.
HB 1727: This bill is much more limited expansion of magistrate ability to sign blood warrants. This would any allow any magistrate to issue a search warrant in a county that does not have a (1) municipal court of record that has a courtroom in that county and an attorney judge, (2) a county court judge who is an attorney, or (3) a statutory county court judge.
HB 1999: House Bill 1999 would decriminalize five alcohol-related offenses for minors (under 21 years old) in Section 106 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code. The penalty for such an infraction would be a fine of up to $500 or 20-40 hours of community service. Specifically, the decriminalized offenses would include purchasing alcohol, attempting to purchase alcohol, consuming alcohol, possessing alcohol, and age misrepresentation. A third infraction under this bill, however, would become a criminal offense. The shift to a civil infraction means that the offense would not show up on a minor’s criminal record and that a judgment could not be enforced in the manner currently authorized by law. The bill provides that jurisdiction over these infractions is with a municipal court in the municipality where the offense occurred or a justice of the peace court in the county where the offense took place. Procedurally, this bill would limit courts’ ability to collect unpaid fines for the offenses listed. Capias pro fines and failure to appear in court would not be options in these cases as these mechanisms are for criminal offenses only. Thus, private debt collection services would likely increase. Courts would only be able to rely on civil enforcement mechanisms to collect unpaid fines.
HB 2089/SB 761: This bill would allow prosecutors to give deferred adjudication is certain first time DWI’s. In Clay Abbott’s opinion it would give prosecutors a much needed alternative to diversion, and while it would not abolish or restrict diversions it would allow prosecutors the ability to give first time offenders a clean record while still allowing enhancement. For the last 8 years prosecutors have used similar provision for domestic violence cases to great effect. This procedural change would give an incentive for offenders to take probation offers over jail offers, would protect the defendants ability to work, and still provide prosecutors the ability to deal more harshly to repeat offenders.
SB 266: This bill would cut the amount of a surcharge for the first six points from $100 to $50 and from $25 to $12.50 for each additional point. It also cuts all of the larger surcharges associated with intoxicated driving offenses in half.
SB 269: This bill would legalize the possession of "medical" marijuana of any THC content. Currently, the bill only allows qualified persons to possess "low-THC" medical marijuana.
SB 875: The Drunk Driver Liability Act, SB 875, would amend Chapter 2 of the ABC – Civil Liabilities for Serving Beverages. The bill would add a definition of “Obviously Intoxicated Person” as being an “individual who has been sold, served, or provided with an alcoholic beverage when the person was obviously intoxicated to the extent that the person presented a clear danger to himself or herself and to others.” The bill would add three subsections to Chapter 2. First, a requirement that if a civil suit is brought against an alcohol provider under Chapter 2, the alleged “obviously intoxicated person” must also be a named defendant in the action. Second, it would also add a rebuttable presumption that all providers except the last provider to serve the person has not commit an act giving rise to a Chapter 2 action. Finally, the bill would disallow (1) the alleged obviously intoxicated person and (2) anyone who purchased/provided drinks for the alleged obviously intoxicated person from bringing actions under Chapter 2.
HJR 46/SJR 17/SJR 18: These joint resolutions would legalize marijuana. A joint resolution must be passed by a super majority and then later pass a vote by the people.
Click here to access the Impaired Driving Legislative Packet! This document overviews how a bill becomes a law in Texas, the impaired driving cases before the 84th Legislature in 2015, how to research bills online, and much more! Hard copies are available for municipal courts, cities, schools, and other interested stakeholders. To order, contact Ned Minevitz at Ned@tmcec.com or (512) 320-8274.
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