Texas driving laws heading for change

On April 17, the Texas House of Representatives voted to approve a preliminary ban on texting and driving in the state, which is among the 11 states that do not have such a ban, according to the House Research Organization. The bill would criminalize the typing and reading of text messages with a $100 maximum fine for first offenders and a maximum $200 fine for repeat offenders.
The bill passed in the House, 97-48, however it is likely to be dead on arrival when it reaches Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. Perry is opposed to the measure and vetoed a similar bill in 2011. The governor seems ready to do so again, despite smaller, local texting bans that have been adopted in dozens of areas including San Antonio, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The reason for Perry’s opposition to the measure, according to the San Antonio Express News, is that he feels that the bill would infringe on people’s personal liberties and would increase the size of government.
Other opponents of the bill are more concerned with it as a threat to civil liberties and would present the opportunity for racial profiling. One of the congressmen opposing the bill is Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston). Dutton introduced an amendment which would require more probable cause than just an officer’s belief that a person was texting while driving. The amendment was defeated.
Another opponent of the bill was Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), who said he was being consistent by voting against the bill in 2011 and was among the 47 who voted against it last week. Larson said, “They already have provisions of law that if someone is distracted, texting falls within that purview,” according to the Express-News. “It was ironic because one of the traffic accidents that I was in — not that I’ve been in a lot — I was a distracted driver. I was eating a taco and my hot sauce fell to the floor and I reached down to pick it up and ran into the back of a parked car.”
Supreme Court bans warrantless blood draws
On Wednesday, April 17, the Supreme Court ruled the fact that blood-alcohol level decreases over time does not warrant a forced blood test for DWI cases. While the ruling was “extremely narrow” and did not specifically pertain to Texas law, according to Bexar Country First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg, it does leave many questions unanswered.
“In an abundance of caution, we’re going to be changing our procedures,” he said to the Express-News, and said that prosecutors will now advise police to seek warrants in all felony DWI cases.
Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed said on her twitter account April 24 that the decision would not affect San Antonio’s no refusal program.
The ruling was almost immediately used in the local case involving Christopher Hughes Lamar, who killed a mother and her 10 year old son in a crash on I-10 on March 23. Lamar had a blood alcohol level of .23, three times the legal limit, and also had other drugs in his system.
State District Judge Melisa Skinner, who is presiding over the case, denied the motion to dismiss the evidence from the blood tests, saying she didn’t believe the Supreme Court ruling pertained to the case.