Texas Ends Driver Responsibility Program

A recent article from the Dallas Observer highlighted the news that Texas Governor Greg Abott signed a bill putting the program to the sword Sept. 1, clearing the path for about 1.5 million Texans to regain their driver’s licenses by ending the Texas Driver Responsibility Program.

John Ross of Ross Law Offices said in a recent Facebook post

A horrible state surcharge program is finally over. This will stop the endless cycle of surcharges and suspensions for tens of thousands of Texas drivers every year. Everything from minor ticket surcharges to extremely excessive, DWI surcharges totaling several thousand dollars is being cut. Good job by Texas in ending this ridiculous money-grabbing scheme.

The program imposed surcharges on Texas drivers who did things like driving without a license or driving under the influence. The surcharges were imposed on top of standard fines and ranged from $250 per year for three years for driving with an invalid license to $2,000 per year for three years for a DWI in which the driver is caught with a blood alcohol level of 0.16 — twice the legal limit — or higher. Drivers who accumulated too many points on their licenses for moving violations or moving violations resulting in a crash were also subject to surcharges.

While the surcharges were nuisances to everyone who had to pay them, they amounted to financial quicksand for Texas’ most vulnerable residents. People would get a ticket and then keep accumulating fines, keeping their license suspended and making them vulnerable to additional tickets and fines.

The Driver Responsibility Program has forced thousands of Texans to pay for their liberty, which is no justice at all. Suspending someone’s license only further removes them from the workforce, leaving them without money to pay additional fees,” said Terri Burke, the executive director for the ACLU of Texas. “With partners across the state, the ACLU of Texas has worked for years to end this program. This is a major step in our quest to create a criminal justice system for Texas that is not only smarter but more just, particularly for those most affected by systemic hardship.”

Thanks to the program ending, more than 630,000 people will immediately be eligible to have their driver’s licenses reinstated, because they have no fees or suspensions that stem from something other than the DRP, according to the Texas ACLU. About 350,000 people will be able to get their licenses back after paying a reinstatement fee and a further 400,000 will be able to drive legally if they can resolve their non-DRP-related suspensions. Any remaining surcharges owed by drivers forced to enroll in the program will be wiped out on Sept. 1, the bill’s effective date.

Dumping the plan, which went into effect in 2003, also gets the state off a legal hook. Equal Justice Under Law, a civil rights advocacy group, sued the state to stop the program in December, alleging that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause by denying vulnerable Texans a vital credential.

“This unfair license suspension scheme particularly targets Texas’ most impoverished residents, who are often unaware additional charges are owed under the DRP,” Phil Telfeyan, the lead attorney in a lawsuit seeking to end the program and executive director of Equal Justice Under Law, said at the time. “Individuals who cannot pay will often lose their job and their home — becoming homeless — for a minor ticket that wealthier drivers simply pay and forget.”

TEXAS MAN FACING DRUG CHARGES AFTER ARREST BY UNDERCOVER POLICE

A tip from an out-of-state law enforcement agency alerted authorities in Fannin County to a man suspected of selling large amounts of marijuana. Undercover police officers approached the suspect and arranged to meet him for a drug buy in Grand Prairie. The man targeted by investigators allegedly arrived with 25 pounds of marijuana.

His arrest led to the approval of a search warrant for his home in Fannin County on County Road 2900. Sheriff’s deputies reported finding over 15 pounds of marijuana, 84 grams of concentrated THC oil, LSD, drug paraphernalia and Xanax pills. Authorities also claimed to have seized over $15,000 in cash along with silver coins. Deputies reportedly collected multiple AK-47s and AR-15s along with bump stocks and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

According to the sheriff’s department, the 44-year-old suspect had four buildings set up to grow marijuana. The sheriff described it as the most complex drug operation that he had personally seen.

Charges are pending against the man who was detained in Grand Prairie. Once he pays his bond to secure his release from jail, the Fannin County sheriff intends to arrest him for multiple drug charges.

Even when evidence appears abundant, a person arrested for drug crimes may benefit from legal representation. A criminal defense attorney may check to see if the evidence actually supports the criminal charges. Any excessive actions by a prosecutor could be vulnerable to challenge. Advice from an attorney might also prevent a person from accepting an unreasonable plea bargain. An attorney may strive to negotiate for reduced charges and potentially limit penalties.

Source: KXII, “Several drugs, guns and cash seized in Fannin County home“, Meredith McCown, April 26, 2019

SOME COUNTIES TOUGHER ON MARIJUANA THAN OTHERS

Two counties in Texas are among those with the highest rates in the country for detaining people on marijuana charges according to an analysis of information from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. In both Sterling and Hartley counties, around 42 percent of all detentions are for marijuana, but these are not the highest in the country. In Dooley County, Georgia, they make up 54.5 percent of all detentions while in Hamilton County, New York, marijuana accounted for 43.5 percent of people taken into custody.

According to an article in the Washington Post, in 2017, almost 6 percent of all detentions were on marijuana-related charges. The article also pointed out that there is incentive on a federal level to pursue these types of charges despite the fact that marijuana is legal in several states. Law enforcement is given funding to put together drug task forces, and authorities are also allowed to keep any valuables seized under forfeiture law. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to identify marijuana because of its bulk and strong smell.

There did not appear to be correlation between the political climate in a particular area and whether or not law enforcement tended to crack down on marijuana. For example, some New England states had high rates while Alabama and Kentucky did not.

When people are facing drug-related charges, they may want to consult an attorney. Conviction on these types of charges can have serious legal and other repercussions. Even if the legal penalties are not severe, people could be denied financial aid for college or some types of housing with a drug conviction. It could also affect some people’s careers. An attorney may be able to get charges reduced. If the drugs were discovered in an illegal search, the case could be dismissed.

NARCOTICS HAUL LEADS TO DRUG CHARGES

On March 29, a search was conducted at a residence in College Station, Texas. During the search, authorities found a variety of drugs, weapons and gang paraphernalia. As a result, a 26-year-old man was taken into custody and charged with the manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance. The event was the end of an investigation that had been going on for more than a year.

Among the controlled substances discovered were 24,000 ecstasy pills, roughly 4 ounces of cocaine and some crack cocaine. There was also marijuana as well as approximately $23,000 in cash. Jewelry that was found at the scene was also taken by authorities. The ecstasy had an estimated value of $242,000 while the cocaine had a combined estimated value of about $3,615. According to authorities, it was the biggest narcotics haul in the history of Brazos County.

People who have been handed drug charges could face years in prison as well as a stiff fine if a conviction is obtained. As a result, those who find themselves in this position might find it advisable to meet with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that a strategy to counter the allegations can be constructed.

This may be done by asserting that any drugs found in a residence did not belong to the defendant. It may also be possible to show that an individual didn’t know that there were any illegal substances in a home. If a defendant has information about others who were involved, an attorney may be able to use that as leverage to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution.

OPIATES WORTH $1.5 MILLION SEIZED IN DENTON DRUG BUST

OPIATES WORTH $1.5 MILLION SEIZED IN DENTON DRUG BUST

In early August, 2018, Denton, Texas police announced they arrested two adults, a male and a female, on suspicion of a large opiate prescription drug theft and sales operation. The drugs were pharmaceuticals stolen from various freight shipments bound for North Texas pharmacies.

The couple sold an undisclosed quantity of drugs to the public. Law enforcement officers seized prescription opiates from the alleged drug dealers valued at around $1.5 million.

Weapons theft report tip-off

The investigation began when Denton police received a tip in February, 2018, of two adults involved in connection with a weapons theft. The police monitored the male’s home where the couple lived with a male child approximately 10 or 11 years of age. The adult male led undercover officers to a storage facility, and law enforcement set up additional surveillance at that site.

Suspicion of possible drug trafficking and sales

The Denton police contacted the United States Drug Enforcement Administration when they found discarded pharmaceutical drug company packing material at the home and traced it to a local shipping company that employed the male suspect as a freight worker.

Police set up a successful, controlled drug buy directly from the male suspect, then obtained arrest and search warrants for both the adult male and female; officers combed the residence and the storage unit for drugs matching those reported missing. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency assisted in the search.

Large prescription drug seizure

The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration and Denton law enforcement seized over 120,000 medication doses of morphine, hydrocodone, Dilaudid, oxycodone, and fentanyl. The authorities also confiscated 14 weapons and an unspecified amount of cash. The adult male had a prior record of incarceration for possession or manufacture of controlled substances, and the female suspect had a previous history of imprisonment on theft charges of undisclosed stolen goods. The 2018 Denton drug seizure case charged the male adult with illegal possession of weapons and controlled substances. Officers set bail at $520,000. The female received four charges of illegal drug possession and endangerment of a child, with bail set at $175,000. Texas has extremely severe penalties for illegal drug activity as part of the Texas Controlled Substance Act.

Any person suspected of or arrested for a possible drug-related offense may want to obtain professional representation to assist with one of many valid drug charge possession defenses. For people charged with alleged drug-related crimes, an experienced professional will work to reduce charges, lighten attached penalties and, depending on the type of available evidence, can enable a dismissal of charges. Options are available for a legitimate defense to drug charges in Texas.

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