|House Interim Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence
Review the laws and procedures relating to driving, including
blood-alcohol levels, sobriety checkpoints, and open containers
The committee appointed the Subcommittee on Driving While Intoxicated.
This subcommittee conducted two public hearings. Testimony included
issues concerning sobriety checkpoints, lowering blood alcohol
levels for adults, breath and blood-alcohol tests, mobile video
taping, and drunk driving prevention programs.
Lower blood alcohol content
level from 0.10 to 0.08.
Prohibit the driver and passengers
of a motor vehicle from possessing open alcoholic beverage containers.
Exceptions should be made for taxis and other hired vehicles.
Amend the open container law
to remove the requirement that peace officers observe consumption.
Authorize the Texas Department
of Public Safety to represent itself in automatic license revocation
Make Chapter 524 (suspension
of driver's license for failure of breath/blood alcohol test)
of the Transportation Code (Code) consistent with Chapter 724
(refusal to submit to such a test).
Amend Section 512.344(f) of
the Code, which refers to the suspension or denial of drivers'
licenses to persons who fail to complete an educational program
for repeat alcoholic beverage offenses, to include persons receiving
non-probated sentences for first or subsequent driving while intoxicated
Amend Section 512.344(i) of
the Code to require a driver's license to be revoked for failure
to complete the DWI repeat offender program.
Encourage the use of videotaping,
especially mobile videotaping, at traffic stops.
Authorize police officers
to respond in a truthful, non-coercive manner to questions by
DWI suspects prior to administering a breath test. Require the
Texas Department of Public Safety to draft an easy-to-understand
warning form. (The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that
officers should be cautious in warning DWI suspects about the
direct statutory consequences of refusal to submit to a test,
as any other information could have the effect of coercing the
suspect into taking the test. There was testimony that a standard,
uniform warning could remove the coercion issue.)
Encourage educational, prevention,
treatment, and traffic safety programs on DWI.
Review and assess the insanity defense.
Under Texas law, insanity is an affirmative defense to prosecution
on the ground that, at the time of the conduct, the actor, as
a result of severe mental disease or defect, did not know that
the conduct was wrong. The public perception is that the insanity
defense is abused, but studies show that this defense is rarely
invoked and seldom successful. The committee established the
Subcommittee on Insanity Defense, which held public hearings.
Texas law should be amended
to include "theim dates." Theim dates provide that
the order for admission to a hospital is for an indefinite period
of time not to exceed the length of time the defendant would have
been required to serve had he or she been found guilty. The use
of such dates would allow the state to bypass civil proceedings
to detain a mentally ill and dangerous person if that person had
already been convicted.
Amend Texas law to create
different treatment tracks for mentally ill persons and mentally
retarded persons, as the current insanity defense law makes no
distinction between mental illness, which is usually easily diagnosed,
and mental retardation, which may go undetected.
Encourage the identification
of persons suffering from mental impairment or retardation on
the local level (this issue is more fully addressed by the Joint
Committee on Criminal Justice and People with Mental Disabilities).