Every year has its big DWI stories, and the year 2020 has been no exception. The pandemic seems to lead almost every 2020 headline, and DWI coverage is no exception. But 2020 has had its share of other big DWI stories. In this blog series, we will review what 2020's top Texas DWI stories can teach us about defending DWI charges.
The Pandemic Shuffles DWI Trends
Wow, what a difference a global pandemic can make. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic turned upside down industry after industry and trend after trend. Cruise ships, airlines, theaters, resorts, and restaurants shut down in droves, trashing those industries. By contrast, online retailers, video-conferencing services, delivery services, and a lot of big tech companies had solid if not banner years. And the stock market miraculously bounced back to records.
Big pandemic-driven economic patterns influenced these and other industry dynamics. For instance, the pandemic ended the longest U.S. economic expansion on record, longer than a decade. The pandemic produced the largest U.S. economic quarterly contraction on record, shrinking the economy by 9.1%. For perspective, that economic contraction was three times larger than the previous largest contraction. The U.S. lost over 20-million jobs in the contraction. Household spending plummeted but over the summer regained its lost ground.
These pandemic impacts affected DWI violations and arrests across Texas. One media report focusing on Houston's Harris County detailed several new pandemic-spawned DWI trends. First, Harris County DWI arrests plummeted at the pandemic's March 2020 onset, even though Harris County had previously had one of the U.S.'s higher DWI-fatality rates. The number of new April 2020 Harris County DWI cases were half of what they were in April 2019. A pandemic lockdown emptying the streets is evidently one way to reduce DWI cases.
Yet then, when Harris County emerged in May 2020 from lockdown, DWI cases shot right back up even beyond May 2019 levels. The media report records Harris County Vehicular Crimes Division Chief Sean Teare attributing pent-up demand for a good time out as the cause for the DWI-case rebound. Over Summer 2020, though, new DWI cases again fell well below 2019 figures. Fatal DWI-involved crashes also fell, although with the highways relatively empty and speeds higher, vehicular fatalities due to other contributing causes increased. Apparently, traffic congestion slows, while clear-traffic speed kills.
Interestingly, these pandemic-driven, up-and-down DWI trends served as something of a laboratory for DWI indicators. Responsibility for a DWI is not solely on the vehicle operator. The above media report records Vehicular Crimes Division Chief Teare expressing concern over the number of alcohol establishments overserving adult customers and unlawfully serving minors, to pump up paltry revenues due to the pandemic. Harris County is now using a Texas Department of Transportation grant to trace DWI arrests to these establishments, not necessarily to shut them down but to educate them in the costs of DWI and train them to avoid those violations.
As a Board Certified DWI Specialist, Texas DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy, Houston's 2021 DWI Lawyer of the Year, understands these complex trends and dynamics affecting DWI arrests, dismissals, and convictions. He knows how to help both his clients and DWI prosecutors appreciate the context for DWI arrests, to achieve the best outcome in rehabilitation and avoidance. A DWI charge need not be a conviction. Sound advocacy can help both the individual defendant and the public address intelligently the conditions leading to DWI violations. Stay tuned for the next installment in this series.