Being arrested for “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) is a serious charge, no matter where in Texas you are—but Houston Police Department's are known to be some of the nation's most aggressive when it comes to DWI enforcement.
When it comes to the area surrounding Texas Medical Center, there have been few recent DWIs, but given the locale, a DWI charge in this area seems likely to be escalated into a much more serious offense.
Or perhaps you know the area—all too well—because you're an employee of one of TMC's hospitals. One-out-of-every-five people living in TMC's zip code (77030) work in health care, making it one of the largest residential concentrations of health care professionals in the United States.
Let's discuss the particular issues of concern relating to a TMC-related DWI, and why it is so important that you have a DWI Specialist for your defense.
Texas Medical Center Environs
Made up of 1,400 acres, the Texas Medical Center considered “the largest and busiest medical city in the world.” Its member hospitals include those of Rice University, the University of Houston, Texas Woman's University, Texas Southern University, along with the University of Texas's MD Anderson Cancer Center and its Health Science Center and Texas A&M's Health Science Center. Over the course of each year, its 110,000 employees care for 10 million patients.
In an essay, TMC’s CEO wrote: “I am often asked: ‘What keeps you up at night?' My answer is always: ‘The safety of everyone that comes to the medical center each day.'”
Why could a DWI in TMC become a more serious charge? TMC hospitals have 750,000 ER visits per year.
Prosecutors can increase the severity of a DWI charge if it results in an injury. Still, the charges will be even further escalated if the injured person is a police officer, emergency services personnel, or firefighter. A charge that would otherwise be a misdemeanor would be a felony if any of them were injured.
However, even a minor DWI, without any accident, could still end up a more serious issue at TMC. If your DWI impeded any police or emergency medical services personnel while they were rendering services, you could be charged with “interfering with public duties,” a Class-B misdemeanor under Texas law.
Texas Medical Center Law Enforcement Presence
Given the concern surrounding both TMC's size and its high profile, TMC has its own police department, while the Houston Police Department, the county sheriff, the FBI, and the CIA are also all involved in securing the area.
With its TMC Police Center, with dispatch and communication services available 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, TMC police provide emergency response, crime prevention, and other services to the local community.
In 2019, TMC only charged three drivers with DWIs. While this is likely due to the department's concentrated geography and the medical center environment, drivers should not expect this low rate of arrests to continue: TMC began an effort to permanently increase its law enforcement presence throughout the area. Notably, in September of that year, TMC moved its new police headquarters to a new, more centrally-located facility at Bertner Avenue and Holcombe Blvd.
State Highway 288—An Expansion
While TMC is a particular issue for a DWI charge, so, too, is the immediate highway.
State Highway-288 is one of the main routes to TMC, and traffic congestion has been a perennial problem on the two-lane highway. In recognition of the continuing expansion of TMC and the surrounding communities, in 2016, Texas commissioned the Blueridge Transportation Group to begin a dramatic expansion of SH 288. The work included the construction of a new Southmore Bridge, the addition of north- and south-bound toll lanes, and a new major interchange for TMC. The TMC interchange includes two new direct connector/ramp bridges onto the highway.
In mid-November 2020, construction of the toll roads was completed, and drivers could begin using the roads, now named the Brazoria County Expressway, with the construction of the TMC area completed in December 2020. While traffic was expected to improve with the addition of these toll roads, road-closures and other construction-related issues would still be an issue until the completion of the final phase. That last development, which continues the tollroads to where SH-288 meets I-69, will continue through the spring of 2021.
While the ultimate change in traffic-flow at the newly expanded SH-88 is yet-to-be-determined, in the meantime, if you are involved in a DWI before the expansion is completed, you may be charged with reckless driving in a construction zone—which can also lead to increased fines and a possible jail sentence.
The Impact of a DWI
Just being in the vicinity of a hospital could escalate a DWI charge. Being on a road under construction can also result in increased fines and penalties.
But the reality is that the consequences of any DWI can impact every aspect of your life. That is even more true if you work as a medical professional: DWIs can impact your ability to have a license to practice medicine, nursing, and dentistry.
However, as grave as a DWI can be, it is important to remember that a criminal charge is not a conviction. People can and do win a DWI defense. In fact, even if you already have a DWI conviction in your past, you may still be able to return to court and have it removed from your record.
But to do that, you need the most skilled attorney available.
Houston attorney Doug Murphy is one of only two attorneys in the state of Texas who is Board Certified in both Criminal Law and DWI Defense. Annually recognized as being one of the Best Lawyers in America by US News & World Report, Murphy brings 20 years of experience in the courtroom, as he also serves as the Dean of the National College for DUI Defense conducted at Harvard Law School. He previously was on the board of directors and as co-chair of the DWI Committee with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
If you face DWI charges in Texas, contact Doug Murphy’s office today to discuss the case and begin working on the defense.