“The Loop,” or Loop 610, is what Houstonians call Interstate 610, an urban 42-mile highway that forms a circle around the city of Houston. The land-area inside the Loop is roughly the size of Milwaukee. But that's not usually how Houstonians experience it—in its entirety, all at once. Instead, most people think of it in terms of its four sections (or subdivisions of them):
- North Loop—running from US Highway 290 to US Highway 90
- East Loop—from Highway 90 to State Highway 225
- South Loop—extending from South Post Oak Road to Highway 225
- West Loop—stretching from Highway 290 to the South Post Oak Road spur
Depending on its location, the Loop's highway is from four-to-six lanes each way. No matter how many lanes, it's a crush when it comes to traffic: The West Loop is considered the most congested highway in the state of Texas. But the rest of the Loop isn't doing so well, either. According to Texas A, the North Loop is the 10th busiest highway in the state. The least busy section is the East Loop. But there is still a considerable amount of congestion: Though it is the 63rd on the list of Texas' most congested roads, the East Loop still sees 200,988 hours of delay per mile each year.
In terms of serious accidents, fortunately, the Loop has fewer fatalities than Houston's other freeways. Studies have shown that constant congestion makes minor accidents more likely but that heavy traffic reduces the likelihood of more grave accidents because the vehicles are moving so much slower.
Still, any highway can be the site of DWI (with or without an accident), so let's review some issues relating to how driving on a highway such as the Loop can impact your DWI, and why it is so critical that you have a DWI Specialist for your defense.
Other Charges that Can Be Brought on The Loop
DWIs on a public street are one thing, but a DWI brought on a highway such as the Loop can result in other charges that you would not see if you had been driving elsewhere.
For example, you may be charged with “Obstructing Highway or Other Passageway.” This charge requires the prosecution prove that you knowingly slowed or impeded traffic on a freeway. As with a DWI, this charge can bring fines and possible jail time; however, an obstructing conviction does not require a license suspension.
While the obstruction aspect of the statute may be comparatively easy to prove (i.e., did you block traffic), it is much more difficult for a prosecutor to find the evidence that proves a driver had the requisite intent—that the driver knowingly and intentionally took an action to interfere with traffic.
Texas law prohibits reckless driving, which is defined very broadly: driving on a highway while “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Driving under the influence of alcohol could, on its own, be a reason to charge you with reckless driving, but reckless driving can also be based on any specific driving behaviors that you may have shown. (E.g., you were driving substantially over the speed limit, did not obey safety signals, or were weaving in-and-out of lanes.)
Charges of obstructing a highway and reckless driving are sometimes proposed by attorneys while negotiating a plea bargain. Accepting an obstructing a highway charge often appeals to defendants, because it will not impact their future insurance rates and cannot be used to enhance the penalties if the defendant is later arrested for another DWI.
However, you must remember that, no matter what the charge, a plea of guilty still results in a conviction on your record, and this can follow you the rest of your life. Therefore, before considering any such deal, you should be represented by a DWI Specialist who will explain all of the issues with you and make sure this is your absolute best course of action.
Ongoing Construction on the I-610 Loop
In an ongoing attempt to alleviate congestion on the Loop, there are a number of long-range construction efforts at work. Construction of a new West Loop interchange and additional off-ramps and connectors began in 2017 and will continue until 2024. There is work being done on the South Loop and plans are to begin work on the northern segment in 2022.
Construction worsens traffic, but it may make accidents more likely to occur: Drivers are distracted by the construction, while lane removals and restriping may disorient drivers.
Construction also has legal implications for a DWI Defense. If you have a DWI charge within a construction zone, you may face additional charges for reckless driving in a construction zone. If police or sheriffs are on-scene to handle traffic-flow and the like, you could be charged with “interference with public duties,” which is a Class-B misdemeanor under Texas law.
On the other hand, while construction can lead to increased DWI charges, construction might also make it more difficult to prove that you were responsible for a DWI-related accident. It's possible that the state of the road, confusing signage, and the like were a more direct cause of an accident—or they were at least contributing factors to its severity.
The Impact of a DWI
Whether it took place on an empty road or a jammed highway, a DWI can impact every aspect of your life. However, it is important to remember that a criminal charge is not a conviction. People can and do win a DWI defense.
Doug Murphy brings 20 years of experience in the courtroom in DUI defense. One of the Best Lawyers in America by US News & World Report and rated as “Preeminent” by AV, Murphy is one of only two attorneys in the state of Texas who is Board Certified in both Criminal Law and DWI Defense. A nationally-recognized lecturer, Murphy is the Dean of the National College for DUI Defense conducted at Harvard Law School. He previously served 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.