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Robert Buford, Author at Robert Littlefield Buford III, Attorney at Law

Most Common Types of Auto-Pedestrian Accidents in Austin

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Austin is a great city for people who enjoy walking and biking. Unfortunately, pedestrians also need to be careful of the dangers posed by automobiles. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that there were 680 pedestrian fatalities in Texas in 2016. Many thousands more innocent pedestrians suffer severe injuries in crashes.

All Texas drivers have a legal duty to ensure the well-being of pedestrians. Too many drivers fail to take pedestrian safety into account. If you or your family member was injured as a pedestrian in Austin, it is imperative that you consult with an Austin pedestrian accident attorney as soon as possible.

Four Common Pedestrian Accidents in Travis County, Texas

1. Left-Hand Turn Collisions

Drivers making unsafe left-hand turns are often the cause for many pedestrian accidents in Austin. This often occurs when drivers are attempting to beat oncoming traffic and are making quick lefts at times when there is not sufficient time to do so in a safe manner. When this happens, some drivers do not notice that a pedestrian is already in the crosswalk until it is too late. Left-hand turn pedestrian accidents can also be an issue at stop lights; there are some locations in the Austin area where the pedestrians are allowed to cross the street at the same time that vehicles are allowed to make left-hand turns.  

2. Unmarked Crosswalk Accidents

While Austin has added many marked crosswalks in recent years, there is still an enormous number of unmarked crosswalks throughout our city. Unmarked crosswalks that have regular foot traffic are high-risk areas for pedestrian accidents. When unmarked crosswalks are located at intersections, Austin drivers should yield the right of way to the pedestrians. Unfortunately, drivers do not always comply with this rule. When they fail to do so, the consequences can be catastrophic.

3. Distracted Driving Accidents

In many cases, pedestrian accidents occur because drivers take their attention off of the road. Some of the most common examples of distracted driving include texting while driving, talking on a cell phone, adjusting the radio, talking to a passenger, and daydreaming. In all cases, distracted driving puts pedestrians at serious risk.

4. Late Night Pedestrian Collisions

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 70 percent of pedestrian accidents happen in the dark. This figure is especially striking when you consider the fact that there are far more people (and cars) on the roads during the day. While drivers have a duty to take extra precautions to watch for pedestrians and cyclists at night, this does not always happen. Nighttime pedestrian crashes are a serious problem in Texas.

Get Help From an Austin, TX Pedestrian Accident Attorney

If you sustained any injuries in a pedestrian collision, the negligent driver should be held legally responsible for your injuries. Robert Littlefield Buford III is an experienced Austin pedestrian accident lawyer who has helped many injured victims recover the financial compensation that they deserve. To get a free, no-obligation personal injury consultation, please do not hesitate to contact our Austin, TX law office at (512) 710-1057.

 

Blowing Into the Machine or Giving a Blood Test

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The state of Texas has strict DWI laws. Under the Texas Penal Code, you can be convicted of drunk driving if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is higher than 0.08. As any good Austin DWI defense attorney will tell you, many people make major mistakes when they are pulled over for a traffic stop. If you have been pulled over, you need to know what to do to protect your legal rights and to ensure you don’t face severe DUI/DWI penalties.

In the United States, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Defendants have no obligation to help the prosecution prove their case; instead, the state of Texas has the burden of proof in DWI cases. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a defendant is voluntarily agreeing to blow into the machine or submit to a blood test.

Refusing to Blow or Give Blood Subjects You to a Civil Penalty

There is a lot of confusion about whether or not motorists in Texas are legally required to take a breathalyzer test or give a blood sample. The answer is a resounding no. You are fully within your rights to refuse to blow into the machine. A Texas police officer cannot physically force you to take a breathalyzer test.

This is not to say that there are zero consequences for a refusal. When you get a license from the Texas Department of Public Safety, you are inherently agreeing to take a breath test when asked to do so during a traffic stop. If you refuse a breathalyzer test, you will be subject to automatic civil penalties. To be clear, a refusal is a civil infraction. Your Texas driver’s license comes with an implied contract that you will submit to a breath test or blood test. Refusal to do so is a breach of that contract. Upon refusal, you will likely be arrested, your license will be taken, and you will be issued a piece of paper that acts as your temporary license and serves you notice of suspension.

With all that being said, an experienced Texas DWI defense attorney will likely tell you that you should still refuse to submit to a breath test or blood test. Why? Because if you are being asked to perform those tests, you are almost certainly about to be arrested for drunk driving regardless of the results. At this point in your interaction, the police officer is most likely attempting to secure additional evidence of your guilt.

Avoid Criminal DWI Punishment: Exercise Your Right to Refuse to Blow or Give Blood

Being convicted of the criminal offense of drunk driving carries a much greater penalty than does the civil infraction of a refusal to blow into the machine or submit to a blood test. Once you have been suspected of drunk driving, you need to take care to protect your legal rights. While you should always remain polite with the responding police officers, you are under no obligation to answer questions or assist them with their criminal investigation.

At this point, the best thing that you can do to protect your own best interests is to exercise your right to request access to your Austin criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to guide you through the legal process, helping you protect your rights, your freedom, and your driving privileges.

Raising the Bar

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As an Austin DWI attorney, I have defended several people who have been served a DWI charge. DWIs in Austin are serious business and can lead to problems for everyone involved, especially if the DWI resulted in an accident. While I don’t condone drinking and driving, there is nothing wrong with throwing a few back – as long as you are doing it responsibly and make good decisions when it comes to getting home. Austin is well-known for its clubs and fun bars, and you should be able to enjoy them. See my recommendations for the best bars around the city, and remember everyone: be smart before getting in your car.

1. Bar Inception

Within the walls of a bar called the Clive Bar lies another small bar called Bar Illegal (despite its name, it is actually legitimate). It is disguised as an inside shed that few pay attention to, but it serves drinks specifically from southern Mexico. If you are lucky enough to grab a drink inside Bar Illegal, you will certainly feel like your drinking experience is a dream within a dream.

2. The Bar-thel

On a street in downtown Austin that many few as disreputable is situated another bar called the Midnight Cowboy. What was once a brothel during prohibition is now a small luxury bar that only serves 8 people at a time due to its small size. Unlike other bars, you have to make a reservation as a group to get in.

3. Bar with an Ego

The bar Ego actually doesn’t have much of one. The place is really a dive, and it is really great. It boasts everything from no windows to graffiti all over the bathroom stalls, but the best parts are their cheap drinks and awesome karaoke. After enough drinks, everyone will think you’re Eric Clapton, but don’t let that give you too big of an ego.

4. Aged Bar

The Lulu’s Christmas Bar isn’t famous for their aged wines, just the fact that really old people go there to drink. What’s so great about that? I don’t know, but if drinking with your parents isn’t your scene, think about hitting up The Roosevelt Room instead. There they try and teach kids in their 20s how to actually appreciate good alcohol so they will be ready to drink with the old timers at Lulu’s.

5. The Handle-Bar

If you want to feel like a kid again, this hipster-inspired bar is probably your best bet. While enjoying all of your drinks, you can also play on their adult jungle gym, get into some adult Jenga, or ride their seesaw. They really take “Keep Austin weird” seriously.

6. Get a Mugshot Bar

We don’t want you to get arrested for anything, but if you want some good drinks and a picture to remind you of how sloshed you were, the Mugshot bar has a famous photo booth that accepts credit cards. Just make sure Mugshot doesn’t turn into another mugshot.

Austin DWI Attorney

I don’t want to see you in my office after you’ve been arrested for drinking and driving after bar hopping, but if you do end up in trouble, you need a good attorney. Call me, Robert Littlefield Buford III, Attorney at Law, to get the best legal representation for your DWI in Austin.

What You Should Know about Walking in Austin

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Austin isn’t well-known for its pedestrian and bicycle-friendly roads. The downtown district of Austin may be walkable due to its high volume of foot traffic associated with people going to and from work, but other areas of the city are notorious for being dangerous or even deadly to pedestrians. With nearly 20 to 30 pedestrian fatalities each year in Austin, and many more injured in pedestrian accidents, this presents a problem for those who are interested in methods of commute that don’t involve motor vehicles. For those interested in walking or biking in Austin, I have delineated what you need to know and what you should do to avoid a pedestrian accident. I have also specified what you should do if you or a loved one gets in an accident. As a pedestrian accident attorney in Austin, I have extensive experience in helping people and families that are suffering from injury or fatality. After reading this guide, make sure to contact me and receive a free consultation about your case.

General Statistics of Pedestrian Accidents in Austin

Historically, the month with the highest number of fatalities in Austin is generally June. There is no specific reason for this, but we can extrapolate that it is because summer is closely approaching but hasn’t reached its peak. This means more people are outside enjoying the outdoors and looking for alternative ways to commute to work or are simply walking and biking for recreation. Regardless the time of year, most Austin fatalities happen on the weekends, and more pedestrians are fatally injured than bicyclists.

Lessons Austin Pedestrians Need to Know

These simple facts teach can teach us a lot about pedestrian accidents in Austin. The first is that it is important to recognize and avoid dangerous roads in a commute, such as I-35, and to make sure you are paying attention to your surroundings in even seemingly innocuous neighborhoods. The second lesson is either to avoid walking/biking on the weekends due to the increased traffic (with nearly a million people out running errands) or make sure to avoid vehicle-dense areas while on foot. The last lesson we can learn is to be even more careful when you are on foot than when you are on a bike. Bikers, aside from being generally more noticeable than pedestrians, also wear head gear – or at least they should – that can protect them in the event of an accident. Pedestrians are much worse off in an accident because not only can they suffer major head trauma, the risk of being dragged beneath a car is much greater.

To stay safe, pedestrians should walk on sidewalks as much as possible. If there is no sidewalk, pedestrians should face oncoming traffic in order to see and avoid potential vehicle threats. When crossing roads, especially in congested areas, but even in residential neighborhoods, it is important to use crosswalks and to heed stop lights. Event with a “walk” light, pedestrians should look to make sure that cars which are turning see them by making eye contact and being wary of their surroundings.

What to Do If You or a Loved One Gets in an Accident

Sometimes, regardless the precautions pedestrians take, negligent drivers still cause accidents resulting in death or other major injuries (such as broken bones, fractured skulls, brain damage, etc.). The medical costs, the emotional turmoil of an accident, the funeral expenses, and much more are very stressful and can cause major concern for families and injured individuals. If you are injured as a pedestrian or if a loved one has died in a pedestrian accident, you have rights and a claim to compensation. It has been proven time and again that hiring an Austin pedestrian accident attorney will get you a better compensation to help pay for medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages, and overall pain and suffering, which is why it is important to call me in the event of your accident. An attorney such as myself will know the ins and outs of insurance systems and different avenues to protect your rights and secure benefits that belong to you.

Don’t Wait

The sooner you contact me, the sooner you will be able to claim your compensation, peace of mind, and knowledge that you have people who are willing to fight for you. Call me today for a free consultation if you or a loved one has gotten into an accident. Most importantly, stay safe and walk carefully!

Charged with DWI? Why You Should Hire an Austin DWI Lawyer

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Many people think that DWI charges cases are cut-and-dry, meaning that if they are charged with driving while intoxicated, they will be convicted and have to face the penalties that accompany a Texas DWI conviction. This is simply not true. Like with all other criminal offenses, an individual charged with DWI is innocent until he or she is proven guilty, which requires the court to make use of available evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual was driving while his or her blood alcohol content was .08 percent or higher. This is why you should work with a DWI lawyer to defend your case if you are charged with this offense.

How Can a DWI Lawyer Help Me with my Case?

There are a few ways a DWI lawyer can help you with your case’s defense. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Your lawyer can conduct his or her own investigation of the evidence presented by law enforcement. Remember, the court has to prove that you were driving while intoxicated through the evidence it collects and present, which can include data from your field sobriety test, the results of your Breathalyzer test, the original arrest report detailing your behavior prior to being pulled over, witness testimonies, and video surveillance of the arrest. Your lawyer can point to discrepancies between pieces of evidence and determine if any are not admissible in court, having them removed from the case;
  • You have rights, such as the right to legal counsel and the right to refuse to say anything that might incriminate you. A lawyer knows these rights and can advise you about how to exercise them and how to interact with law enforcement and the court; and
  • Your case has multiple components. In addition to your criminal hearing for DWI, you can request an administrative hearing to fight your driver’s license suspension within 15 days of your arrest. Your lawyer can not only request this hearing, but advocate for you through it, keeping you on the road until your case is resolved.

Why Should I Specifically Work with an Austin DWI Lawyer?

If you were arrested for DWI in Austin, Texas, it is best that you work with a lawyer who is familiar with the local court system and the specific road where your arrest took place. This local knowledge will help him or her defend your case by discussing specific aspects, such as local traffic patterns, in detail. A local lawyer will also be familiar with the nuances of the Travis County Criminal Court at Law and the people working within its system, such as the judge who will hear your case.

Work with an Experienced Austin DWI Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with DWI, do not wait to start working on your defense with an experienced Austin DWI lawyer. Contact Robert Littlefield Buford III, Attorney at Law, today to set up your free legal consultation in our office.

Don’t Hesitate to Hire an Austin Personal Injury Attorney

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Many people in Austin are hesitant to contact a lawyer even when they know they have a serious problem. For example, maybe you have been hurt in an accident, but you don’t feel it was bad enough to mention. Perhaps, you are afraid of dealing with fees and insurance. Whatever the case is for being hesitant to hire an Austin personal injury attorney, you will actually find that Robert Littlefield Buford III, Attorney at Law will assuage all of your concerns and help you get the most out of a painful situation.

Will Hiring a Lawyer Only Make Things Worse?

Exacerbating the situation with a lawyer is one of the first reasons people are reluctant to consider legal counsel. Though many cases concerning personal injuries should in fact involve the help of a lawyer (to assist with necessary paperwork and act as a mediator with insurance adjustors), most attorneys offer free consultations where they will encourage you or discourage you from taking legal action, based on the evidence and details of your case. In short, hiring a lawyer in involved personal injury and insurance issues won’t make things worse; it will make your life substantially easier.

The types of personal injuries most common in Austin are those of car accidents or premises/construction liability. These types of personal injury cases are usually very involved, as they deal with belligerent insurance companies who are dedicated to avoiding shelling out for their clients who are clearly at fault of your injuries. They are also particularly difficult because they often involve police reports, and accuracy in these reports is key to receiving a full compensation amount. Different parts of your personal injury can be drawn out, too, making the process especially tedious waiting for replies and dealing with paperwork. As a personal injury attorney in Austin, I specialize specifically in these areas to ensure that you can focus on healing while I fight for compensation for your medical expenses, insurance costs, and pain and suffering.

But Won’t a Lawyer Only Prolong the Process?

This is another popular misconception. Some people think lawyers only want to drag out legal proceedings unnecessarily to satisfy their own egos and wages. The fact is complicated cases, including ones associated with several doctors’ visits, surgeries, and other ongoing medical expenses, take a lot of time, regardless if you are using a lawyer or not. Hiring me as an attorney, however, won’t make the process longer, and in fact, the whole process could be expedited. There is no reason that an attorney should want to prolong your case, as our earnings are largely based on your compensation. We are incentivized to helping you receive the best results in the shortest amount of time. Beyond that, I am also dedicated to providing excellent service and personally believe victims of personal injury accidents need someone on their side, advocating for their cause while they are on the mend.

Can I Really Afford a Lawyer?

Even if you know you need to speak with an attorney, you may still hesitate to contact one because you are worried about the cost. But consider the potential long-term costs if you do not hire a lawyer. Statistics show, however, that even after attorneys are compensated for their work, their clients receive more compensation than they could have received alone. This is because of our working knowledge with the law, and insurance companies know they won’t be able to get out of paying you what is due.

The truth is you have as much better chance of succeeding and getting the care you deserve when you hire me as your attorney. I you live in the Austin area and need assistance from an experienced Texas personal injury lawyer, contact the office of Robert Littlefield Buford III, Attorney at law, today.

Top 5 Reasons for Hiring a Wrongful Death Attorney

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Losing a loved one is always a traumatic experience regardless of the cause. But when death is the result of someone else’s negligence, you are understandably hurt and angry. It can be a lot to process and there is no reason to deal with the situation alone. Working with an Austin wrongful death attorney can help you and your family begin to heal and move on.

While contemplating a lawsuit may not be the first thing on your mind, there are in fact several good reasons to engage an attorney as soon as possible.

1. You Have the Right to Know the Whole Truth

It is not always clear exactly what caused a loved one’s death. And the responsible parties are not always forthcoming. For example, if a patient dies due to apparent medical malpractice, the hospital and the doctors will quickly move to circle the wagons. The grieving family members are unlikely to get a straight answer.

This is where having an attorney is critical. It may be necessary to hire outside investigators and experts to review all of the available evidence to determine exactly what happened to the deceased. An experienced wrongful death lawyer knows how to manage these types of investigations and make sure the family learns the truth.

2. Criminal Law Is Not Sufficient

Not all negligence involves criminal activity. The police typically do not arrest a doctor who commits malpractice that results in a patient’s death. And even where there is criminal act involved–such as drunk driving–prosecutors are tasked with protecting the public at-large, not seeking compensation for individual victims.

In contrast, wrongful death is a civil matter. The standard of proof is much lower than in a criminal case. When the police are unable or unwilling to charge a responsible party, a wrongful death may be the only way a family can receive any justice.

3. You Need to Protect Your Family’s Financial Future

Some people dismiss wrongful death lawsuits as a shameless grab for cash. But the reality is a sudden, unexpected death can financially devastate a family. If the deceased was the primary wage earner, the surviving spouse and children may not have sufficient income to make ends meet. There are also costs related to the death itself, such as funeral and medical bills, which can run tens of thousands of dollars.

By filing a wrongful death claim, the family can seek compensation not only for these expenses but also lost income and even the loss of the potential inheritance the victim would have provided had he or she continued to work and save.

4. You Should Not Deal With Insurance Companies Alone

In many cases the negligent party has insurance that will cover a wrongful death judgment. Insurance companies are pros when it comes to exploiting a family’s financial desperation. Many times they will present a quick offer to settle and preempt a potential lawsuit. Such offers are usually not enough to compensate the family for the full value of their economic losses.

An experienced wrongful death attorney knows to handle the insurance companies. Oftentimes, an attorney can still reach a negotiated settlement–but one that is far more reasonable and fair to the victim’s family. Simply hiring an attorney sends a message to the insurance company that you are serious and will not be ignored.

5. Time Is of the Essence

In Texas there is a two-year statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit. That may seem like a lot of time, but consider how long it may take to investigate the cause of death, negotiate with the insurance company, and deal with the other consequences of a family member’s death. Also consider the longer you wait to start the process, the more likely important evidence will be lost or destroyed.

Contact An Austin Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

The most important thing any lawyer can offer a grieving family is the promise to zealously fight for their interests. If you have lost a loved one due to negligence, you do not have to deal with the aftermath alone. Contact the office of Robert Littlefield Buford III, Attorney at Law, to schedule a consultation with a qualified Texas wrongful death attorney today.

What you Should Do if a Loved One has Died in an Accident

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What you Should Do if a Loved One has Died in an Accident

When an individual dies in an accident, he or she can leave significant expenses for his or her immediate family. These expenses can include the victim’s medical bills, his or her funeral costs, and the financial fallout of the death, such as the loss of his or her salary and insurance benefits as well as his or her personal contributions to the household. On top of these expenses, the victim’s surviving loved ones often have to face the mental trauma of losing the victim’s companionship, guidance, and love.

Family members of accident victims can seek compensation for these damages through wrongful death claims. Like with personal injury claims, individuals pursuing wrongful death claims must demonstrate that their loved ones died as the result of other parties’ negligence and that the deaths caused them to suffer specific financial damages.

Determine if you are Entitled to Seek Compensation for your Damages

Texas law permits a victim’s spouse, children, and parents to seek compensation through a wrongful death claim. If one of these parties does not file a wrongful death claim within three months of the victim’s passing, a personal representative of the victim’s estate may do so unless the family specifically stated that they do not wish to pursue compensation.

Consider Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

Through a wrongful death claim, an individual or multiple members of a victim’s family can seek compensation for the following damages:

  • Lost inheritance;
  • Lost household income;
  • Lost care, household maintenance, and other intangible forms of support the victim provided to the household;
  • The loss of the victim’s companionship and comfort; and
  • The expenses of psychological counseling to handle the grief of the loss.

With your wrongful death claim, you will need to provide evidence that demonstrates the extent of your damages as well as proof that the death was due to negligence. This evidence can include copies of the victim’s pay stubs and funeral expenses as well as his or her medical bill and details about the accident, such as photographs of the scene and the official police report, if one was filed.

In Texas, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is generally two years from the date of the victim’s death. Certain exceptions do apply.

Remember to Take Care of Yourself

If you have lost a loved one in an accident, remember to take care of yourself physically and mentally while you work through the wrongful death process. Working with a lawyer to pursue compensation following a loved one’s death can add to the trauma of the loss, so be sure to practice self-care strategies like speaking with a counselor, journaling, and focusing on your own well being.

Work with an Experienced Austin Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you have lost a loved one in an accident, it can seem like nothing will truly compensate you for your loss. But if you are experiencing financial damages as a direct result of the death, think practically and consider seeking compensation for these damages through a wrongful death claim. To learn more about filing and pursuing a wrongful death claim, contact our team of Austin personal injury attorneys at The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford today to schedule your initial consultation in our office.

Austin Dog Bites

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Austin Dog Bites

Our attorneys at the law offices of The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford understand the compromising situation a person experiences psychically and psychologically after being attacked or viciously bitten by a dog. Though it can sometimes be a traumatic experience, especially for children but also for adults, there are parts of Texas law which can ensure that you receive compensation for this particular type of personal injury. If you or a loved one has been bitten or mauled by a dog, our team is on your side. In considering us for your legal representation, we will help you to understand dog bites laws in Texas while we build your claim and recover compensation for your injuries.

Texas Dog Bite Laws

Unlike a majority of other states in the nation, the state of Texas does not have a specific statute related to dog bites. This means that there is no specific state law that holds the owner liable or responsible for his or her dog in the event of an attack. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have legal footing, however. Case law and precedent have established rules regarding liability for dog bites in the state. In Marshall v. Ranne, the Texas Supreme Court concluded that in the question of dog bites, the state would adhere to the one-bite rule.

What Is the One-Bite Rule?

The one-bite rule essentially means that a dog in Texas gets one “free” bite before its owner can be held liable for any damages caused to another party. This is also known as a negligence-based theory of liability. The logic for the rule is based in the idea that if the dog has not previously bitten someone, the owner has no way of knowing of the dog’s propensity for aggression; however, once the dog has bitten someone, the owner must act in a reasonable manner in order to prevent the incident from occurring again. If the owner fails to do this, they are liable based on their breach of this duty, i.e. negligence.

Your Right to File a Claim

Because Texas follows this type of negligence-based liability when it comes to dog attacks, those who are bitten or mauled by a dog have the right to file a lawsuit against the owner of the dog to seek damages. In order to win your suit, you will have to prove that the owner owed you a duty of care (i.e. you were not trespassing or doing something illegal), the owner breached that duty of care (by failing to properly restrain their dangerous dog or prevent the dog from attacking you), and that you suffered harm as a result.

If you can prove the elements above, then you can seek damages for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and all other types of economic or noneconomic losses you have suffered.

Our Experienced Attorneys Can Help

Because you may have no idea whether or not the dog that bit you has ever bitten another person or animal before, you may have no idea whether or not you have a strong foundation for bringing a claim against the dog’s owner. Our law offices of The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford can help you to understand what you need to prove and gather all evidence necessary to your case. To learn more about dog bites laws in Austin and how our Austin personal injury lawyers can assist you, contact us online or by phone today.

Can Austin Police Force Me to Take a Blood Test If They Suspect DWI?

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When you are suspected of drunk driving, police in Austin and throughout Texas must still respect your constitutional rights. This includes the right to be free from any unreasonable search of your person. A search is considered unreasonable if law enforcement does not first obtain a warrant or establish there is some “exigent” or emergency circumstances that excuses the lack of such a warrant. Any evidence obtained by the police in violation of these requirements cannot be used against you at trial.

Texas Courts Clamp Down on Warrantless DWI Blood Tests

In DWI accident cases, one of the most common searches that a defendant may face is a blood test. A blood-alcohol test is often the key piece of evidence used to convict a person of DWI and related offenses, such as intoxication manslaughter. Police and prosecutors often attempt to conduct such blood tests without a warrant, but Texas courts have increasingly rejected such efforts.

In 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that “warrantless, nonconsensual testing of a DWI suspect’s blood does not categorically fall within any recognized exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.” But the Court did not say that all warrantless blood tests were illegal. Rather, it held the government could not create a blanket exception to the warrant requirement for DWI blood tests. Depending on the circumstances of a particular case, a warrantless blood test may still be deemed legal.

Still, the Court’s decision offers DWI defendants an important tool in challenging the evidence against them. For example, on May 10 of this year, a Texas district court of appeals reversed a defendant’s conviction based largely on a warrantless blood test. This case was of particular interest given the defendant was not convicted merely of DWI, but felony murder arising from an alleged act of drunk driving.

The defendant was returning home from a bar when he struck a motorcycle. The motorcycle operator suffered fatal injuries. Police officers responding to the scene disagreed as to whether the defendant appeared intoxicated. Some officers took the defendant to a nearby hospital, where they ordered a blood test without the defendant’s consent—he had refused it—or attempting to obtain a warrant. Following a trial, a jury convicted the defendant of felony murder.

On appeal, the defendant challenged the admissibility of the warrantless blood test. The appeals court agreed that the police had violated the defendant’s constitutional rights. The court cited the testimony of the lead Texas Department of Public Safety officer at the scene, who said he took “zero steps” to obtain a warrant, even though at least 90 minutes elapsed between the accident and the blood test. Indeed, although the accident occurred after midnight, local police “had a process in place to assist officers in obtaining warrants.” The policy simply ignored that process and the defendant’s constitutional rights. Accordingly, the court said the defendant was entitled to a new trial, one where the blood test results cannot be introduced as evidence against him.

Stand Up For Your Constitutional Rights

Cases like the one above illustrate the importance of constitutional safeguards against warrantless, non-consensual searches. If you face criminal charges as the result of alleged drunk driving, or if you have been struck by a drunk driver in Austin, it is important you retain an experienced Austin personal injury lawyer or an Austin DWI accident attorney who can help ensure the courts and law enforcement respect your rights. Contact the Austin DWI lawyers at The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford today if you require immediate assistance.