For this legislation term, there were a total of six DWI laws reviewed. They included bills for ignition interlock devices for 1st time offenders, sobriety checkpoints, deferred adjudication, license revocation for 2nd time offenders, and alcohol detection devices for those on probation. These were all in an attempt to persuade Texas drivers to stop driving under the influence. In 2009 Texas led the nation with 1,235 deaths from DWI accidents but has decreased in recent years.
Out of the bills proposed, only one has passed to the Governor’s desk in Austin. The Abdallah Khader Act has been pushed through by lawmakers. The act is named after a two year old, Abdallah Khader, who was left in a vegetative state after a repeat DWI offender crashed into his families car on February 20, 2009.
Stewart Lee Richardson had seven convictions for driving under the influence from four different states. With a blood alcohol level of .25, he slammed his car into the Khader’s at a red light, destroying 80% of Abdallah’s brain. It was lawmaker’s decision that there should be different grades of vehicular assault based off of the resulting damage done.
State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Burleson, responded with two “Abdallah Laws.” The first law attempts to quantify how out-of-state DWI convictions are used for offenders in Texas. The second increases the punishment of the DWI offence if the accused has caused decreased brain function as a result of any crash. The second law is the one that the Governor has received. It proposes to increase the penalty to a second degree felony with a sentence that is raised from 2-10 years to 2-20 years for cases like Abdallah Khader’s. The law will also upgrade the charge of driving with a BAC of .15 or more to a class A misdemeanor, which means up to a year in jail in place of the previous sentence of 180 days in jail.
Whereas this bill is very important for DWI laws, MADD had their hopes up that the sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlock device bills would be passed. This would stop people from driving while drunk or limit the damage they can do rather than punishing offenders after the fact. According to MADD public policy liaison Bill Lewis, “We [MADD] do a lot of research on what works and what doesn’t … [i.e.] bills that wouldn’t take drunk drivers off of the road.” These proposed laws will probably come back again during the next legislative session, please contact a Texas DWI defense attorney if you are facing DWI charges.