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The Department of Public Safety Discusses Drunk Driving

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Jeff Weinstein will be speaking live with Department of Public Safety spokesperson, Jean Dark on Blog Talk Radio this Sunday evening, September 5th, at 7:00 p.m. Texas leads the nation in drunk driving crashes and fatalities. That's why between August 20th and September 6th, thousands of state troopers and local law officers across Texas will be stepping up patrols and arresting drunk drivers. Weinstein and Officer Dark will be discussing the efforts of DPS to curb drinking and driving - important information in light of the upcoming Labor Day holiday. About the Department of Public Safety~ DPS is a state police agency. The Highway Patrol Division Troopers enforce traffic laws and assist during emergencies. Highway Patrol Division Troopers enforce traffic laws on rural Texas highways and perform a variety of other duties: - Apprehend traffic law violators, investigate most rural traffic accidents, recover stolen vehicles and stolen property, apprehend wanted persons, and assist other officers during emergencies. - Provide education and information programs on traffic safety and crime prevention and control. - Responsible for security at the State Capitol Complex in Austin. - Enforce laws regulating weight, registration and other regulations governing commercial carriers.

Transcript

0:05 Jeff Weinstein

If you drink and drive, I don't like you, period. I don't care if you're a hard worker or your friends and family think you hung the moon. The fact that you think it's okay to endanger the lives of innocent people on our roadways is horrendous to me. I'm Jeff Weinstein of Weinstein Law. We're injury lawyers that for the last 23 years have helped accident victims for their injuries resulting from the senseless acts of drunk drivers. We help people put the pieces back together after innocent lives are shattered by drunk drivers. For me, prosecuting drunk drivers is personal. If you've been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, I want to be your partner to help you and your family. I know what you're going through. I know you're right. I can help you. We can help you. And remember, if you drink and drive, it's only a matter of time until you pay. Trooper Dark, are you there?

1:08 Jean Dark

I'm here. How are you?

1:11 Jeff Weinstein

I'm doing fine Trooper Jean Dark. And thank you so much for being with us on a Sunday night of Labor Day weekend. I mean, this is where we know law enforcers 24/7. Thank you.

1:25 Jean Dark

Ha-ha! It is. And it was a beautiful day outside today, wasn't it?

1:30 Jeff Weinstein

I'll tell you. There is something about going from 105.

1:35 Jean Dark

86.

1:37 Jeff Weinstein

That really makes everybody happy.

1:40 Jean Dark

Oh my Gosh! I think that everybody that was stopped today was in a great mood. They were just glad to be outside and not sweating profusely.

1:51 Jeff Weinstein

Well, you know, you probably get a few more RPS when you have the windows down.

1:55 Jean Dark

(Laughing)

1:57 Jeff Weinstein

The problem is you cannot control that. You're with the Department of Public Safety. I don't know that people in Texas really know what the Department of Public Safety is? Would you mind just sharing with us for a couple of minutes? What the department really is?

2:17 Jean Dark

Okay. So, the Department of Public Safety is the state's premiere law enforcement agency and we are licensed through TCLEOSE, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Ethics. The highway patrol side of the department are the troops that you see out on the roadways basically regulating the traffic, stopping speeders, arresting drunk drivers, and working traffic crashes. That's really the meat and potatoes of what the highway patrol does. Of course, we have a licensed ___3:00___ commercial motor vehicle enforcement division that deals with the truck tractor-semitrailer commercial motor vehicle regulation and we've got the criminal enforcement division agents that deal with drug trafficking, gangs, stolen vehicles, white collar crimes, you name it. We have a helicopter program, an aircraft section, a dive tem. So, we've got people searching in nasty, nasty, disgusting water for weapons and bodies, and you name it. We've got all kinds of different things going on, not to mention the forensic side with our labs, whether it's blood alcohol analysis, DNA analysis, crime scene technicians. We've got it all.

4:03 Jeff Weinstein

All right. So, how does someone becomes, you're spokesperson?

4:07 Jean Dark

Ha-ha-ha! I am? Can you tell?

4:10 Jeff Weinstein

No, no. I cannot tell. And I would imagine most folks only think of seeing black and white squad cars and think...

4:19 Jean Dark

That's true.

4:20 Jeff Weinstein

"Oh-oh, I am going to drive with speed limit." I mean, there is a lot more to the department than seeing you on the highway.

4:26 Jean Dark

And that's true, but let me tell you, for people, there are some basic requirements for becoming a state trooper. First off, I would say, "go visit us online at www.txdps.state.tx.us," and then click on. We have a great training video, a recruiting video, and all the information about what it's going to take to become a state trooper. But let me just go through a couple of quick things. Basically, there is a physical before employment that each applicant is going to be examined by a physician and then there is specific body composition requirement, there is a vision test, there is age discrepancy, there's a low end, right? So, applicants have to be at least 20 years of age on the date of their probationary appointment to the position of trooper training. So, once you get to trooper training status and probation after your recruit school, you have to be at least 20 years old. Now, we don't have a maximum age limit, which really kind of blows the mind of lots of different people. We've had those that have already had military careers, already had civil service careers, whether it's with other law enforcement agencies or fire departments. I know in my recruit school, we had a fire captain that had retired and now starting another career in law enforcement. So, we don't have a top end age restriction. As long as you can meet the physical, the vision, the educational standards, you have to have an approved associate's degree for a minimum of 90 semester hours from an accredited college or university, you can substitute for the education you can, substitute prior law enforcement or military experience, and there's a ratio for that and as well laid out on our website. Those are kind of the very minimum standards and, of course, you can look in to all of that on the website.

6:50 Jeff Weinstein

All right. So, you say it's premiere. The department is responsible for the security for our governor.

6:57 Jean Dark

Uh-hmm.

6:58 Jeff Weinstein

Isn't that right?

6:59 Jean Dark

Yes, yes. We have a Governor's Protective Detail. We have a Capitol Security. So, it's not just the governor, it's also the capitol. When the legislature meets, of course, we are there for their security at the capitol as well, and, of course, there are thousands and thousands of visitors at the capitol every day. So, the regulation of the flow of those people in and out of the capitol ground and their security have to be maintained, their safety has to be maintained as well. So, it's not just, again, the troopers that you see in a black and white vehicle out on the interstate highway, although that is probably the most common of the uniformed personnel that we have, they are the majority, but like you said, the Governor's Protective Detail, the Austin Security of the capitol, those are fewer troops, but not any less than any of the other troopers that we have. All have to go through the same sort of training and instructions that your road trooper has.

8:17 Jeff Weinstein

So, now, I give the stat that I'm not proud of. Texas, which is the greatest state in the United States of America leads the nation in drunk driving crashes and fatalities.

8:29 Jean Dark

Generally. We share it with California, but let me say...

8:37 Jeff Weinstein

What's the problem?

8:38 Jean Dark

Let me just say to Texas' defense that we do have, first off, I mean, we are a massive state, we're huge. I mean, we are not as big as Alaska, but we are huge, and so we have many, many, many more road, square mileage, than anywhere else, right? And so...

9:02 Jeff Weinstein

I'm not asking for a defense though, that I'm just saying...

9:04 Jean Dark

Okay, I'm just saying.

9:05 Jeff Weinstein

This is the stat and now...

9:07 Jean Dark

It is, but it...

9:09 Jeff Weinstein

We are going to face it too. What's the official...?

9:12 Jean Dark

We are going to try.

9:14 Jeff Weinstein

Well, you guys do it everyday. What is the official policy of the Department of Public Safety as it relates to driving while intoxicated?

9:24 Jean Dark

Well, you know, we are going to enforce all of the laws for the State of Texas and we have a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving, specifically for the reason that you sighted, that we have a tendency to be either number one or number two in the nation when it comes to DWI crashes, DWI fatality, and we want to be right after them with DWI arrest.

10:00 Jeff Weinstein

Well, of course, you know, let's face it. It's not only dangerous for everybody that's out on the roadway. You guys are out on the roadway.

10:08 Jean Dark

Sure.

10:09 Jeff Weinstein

You should face it. It's dangerous for you guys too.

10:12 Jean Dark

And a lot of people don't realize that the majority of DPS troopers that have been killed in the line of duty have been killed in traffic crashes, whether it's being hit while they're out there on the side of the road. I know of only two troopers that were run over and killed by a drunk driver. It happened to us. This is a violent crime. This is not just your typical traffic like I was going 10 miles over the speed limit or I had a turn signal out on my license plate while I was out on my head lamp, I wasn't carrying my driver's license with me, or I didn't have my insurance card, or my registration went out, or my inspection went out. These are not a simple traffic violation. This is a violent crime and we deal with it and we treat it that way. We are not soft and cuddly, I guess, when it comes to that sort of infraction of the law. We take a very, very straight line approach to a driving while intoxicated offense.

11:40 Jeff Weinstein

Last week, Leslie Watson from MADD of East Texas. You may know Leslie.

11:45 Jean Dark

Uh-hmm. I do know Leslie.

11:47 Jeff Weinstein

Yeah, she was on the show last week and she gave me a specific that has really stayed in my head all week long and that was that one and I'm going to mess this up, I'm sure, a drunk driver would drive 86 to 87 times before actually ever been stopped or being involved...

12:08 Jean Dark

True.

12:09 Jeff Weinstein

Or something like that.

12:10 Jean Dark

That's true. And the thing that you have to look at...Well, it is, but if you start looking at it statistically wise, if you're looking at them, the number of people that are in the state of Texas versus the number of officers that are out on the road, okay? Then, you look at every single weekend that there is in a year, and that's where you start seeing where it is, that somebody is doing circling out on Thursday night or maybe it's ladies' night on Wednesday night or Thursday night, whatever night it is. So, they go out that night, and then they go out, of course, Friday night, and then Saturday night, and it's just a holiday weekend and they have Monday off, then we're going out Sunday night also. So, there are three nights during the week, generally speaking, that somebody may go out and participate in activities that are going to include drinking and the first thing you need to understand is at the first drink, alcohol's first effect is impairing your judgment. So, when you think that it's not that big a deal, it really and truly to you at that point isn't that big of a deal because your judgment is completely skewed now. Makes sense?

13:37 Jeff Weinstein

Now, it makes a perfect sense. You know, it wasn't for me. It wasn't that you wouldn't be caught because let's face it. I mean, there is a lot more of us, you know.

13:49 Jean Dark

Sure.

13:50 Jeff Weinstein

Civilian. Then there are law enforcers. To me, it was, I made a conscious choice, 86 or 87 times, to do something that could really not only destroy my life, but destroy the life of somebody else.

14:08 Jean Dark

Right. But remember what you just said, a conscious choice. Yes, you made that choice, but maybe the intent was...and I trust you. I mean, I'm telling you. And you know because you are an attorney and I know because I've been from that with a stand that what is the defense to prosecution for a drunk driver?

14:30 Jeff Weinstein

Was I intoxicated? It is amazing. I didn't think I was intoxicated.

14:33 Jean Dark

Well, I didn't say that's exactly it. I didn't think that I was. So, remember the very first thing that alcohol affects is your judgment. So, you see how. And the other problem that we have is convincing a jury, right? There are a lot of people. Is it 86 times that somebody is going to do something before they get caught? How many people does that include, right? So, how many people in your jury does that include?

15:01 Jeff Weinstein

Yeah. So, there but for the grace of God, go I.

15:07 Jean Dark

There you go. So, it's one of those things where you have to convince the jury that though it may have happened, maybe there but for the grace of God go I, but do we not expect there is to be a higher standard? Can we not as a society demand a higher standard for our kids? For the protection of our family? Can we not demand that? Even if we have been guilty of it, as a potential juror might think, there but for the grace of God go I. Sure! But, where do you drive a lot? How many people do you let go with there but for the grace of God go I defense? Right?

16:02 Jeff Weinstein

So, the defense of "hey, I wasn't going to drive very far," how far will that get you?

16:07 Jean Dark

I cannot go far.

16:10 Jeff Weinstein

I'm just living here.

16:13 Jean Dark

I guess it's going to depend on your attorney.

16:16 Jeff Weinstein

I only have to drive a couple of 3 miles to zero tolerance.

16:21 Jean Dark

A couple of three miles can mean that my family is on the road at the same time, the same place, right? So, it comes down to, you're right, in what you said that people make a conscious decision. If you know ahead of time because of the education, right? Law enforcement has a job to do. We have the enforcement side, but we also have the education side. The part of my job comes in as informing the public or educating the public not just on what the law says, but how you need to apply that to your life. So, do we advocate just don't drink? Of course not. It's a legal substance, that what we have to do is say, "I have to inform you of what happens when you do start drinking. These are the things that happen. These are the things that take place physically within your body". It is not a matter of a voodoo signs or anything else. I mean this is legitimate information from legitimate sources saying this is the physical side. This is what is happening to your body when you start drinking. The very first thing is your judgment starts to go down, which is why of course you notice people who probably shouldn't be dancing all of a sudden or conservative or quiet people may become more outspoken or their demeanor, of course, kind of changes. So, people have the impression that to loosen up, they need to have a couple of drinks, or to get upset, they might need to have a couple of drinks. And really what happens is that when you introduce alcohol into your system, you're actually depressing your system. It is a central nervous system depressant, which is why, of course, you feel like you can do these different things that maybe your personality normally would not allow you to do.

18:38 Jeff Weinstein

So, this is the three questions you're now talking about. A lot of people think that the legal limit to drive a car in Texas is 0.08.

18:53 Jean Dark

Sure. Right.

18:55 Jeff Weinstein

And of course, I was so proud after we came from 0.10 to 0.08.

18:59 Jean Dark

0.10. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

19:01 Jeff Weinstein

Sure. But I think people don't realize that that is just one standard, isn't it?

19:10 Jean Dark

That is. And a lot of people then...and giving you a surprise, let me tell anybody that is out there listening that I do come and speak to civic organizations, school groups, whatever group you have, I will be happy to come and share the same information with them. But it is not a secret and should not be a secret that 0.08 is only one part as the DWI Statute. There is a whole second part to it. Actually, it is the first part of the DWI Statute.

19:41 Jeff Weinstein

That's the first part. That's exactly right.

19:43 Jean Dark

It's the very first part and that says that not having the normal use of your mental or physical faculties. Uhmm? So, what does that mean? Not having normal use of your mental or physical faculties, meaning that if I line 10 people up and nine of them can perform this specific task, but you cannot because of the reason of the introduction of alcohol, dangerous drug, or other substance into your body. And that is the first part of the DWI Statute. Everybody else can do something, but you can't, and it is specifically due to the reason of a dangerous drug, alcohol, other substance into your body. Other substance? Think about all of the other substances that can be out there. Think about people who has paint. You know, it is not like gone are the days when you had the mimeograph machine and all the students used to pick up their paper and sniff it. Right? Now, you have people that are putting paints into bags and shoving it over their faces to get high. So, that person is really just the same as somebody who on an Intoxilyzer instrument is blowing 0.08 or higher. So, people misunderstand that it is not just the alcohol concentration of 0.08, but there is a first Statute to that and that is not having the normal use of your mental or physical faculties by the reason of the introduction of a controlled substance drug, dangerous drug, or other substance into your body. So, if I can articulate to a jury that, which I saw prior to even stopping your vehicle, right? Because we have to have a reason to stop you in the first place. So, the signs that are there as far as not using your headlights and it is nighttime, slow like 70 miles an hour and you're doing 45 or 50, or you're in the camber side, you're doing 90 or 100, and not stopping for a stop sign or a red light, making really wide turns. There are lots of different things that people do that we can show statistically go hand and hand with an intoxicated driver or an impaired driver, impaired on ___22:28___. We don't know until we actually get them out of the car and start talking to them one on one, but prior to that is the vehicle in motion and what are we saying as an officer, what am I articulating to a jury that I'm seeing why you were dangerous being out there on the road, because you almost run over somebody, because you were driving bar ditch to bar ditch, because you were speeding up and slowing down, you couldn't maintain a consistent speed, because you made wide right turns, because you blew a stop sign, because you blew a light, because you were sitting stationary at a green light. All of these different things. Then, we move into actually having contacts with the driver. How are you getting out of the car? Are you leaning on the car? Are you pouring out of the car? How are you talking to the officer? Are you talking too fast? Are you talking too slow? Are you stumbling over your words? Are you very thick tongued in your speech? How are you giving me your driver's license? Are you able to pull it out very smoothly and fluidly like any other person not in all normal controlled conditions, being able to very smoothly pull out your driver's license? Are you having to stumble around a lot? What is your appearance like? We know that drunk drivers or drunk people have a tendency to fall down or to not button up their clothing appropriately. So, what is the style of your dress? Those are all things that an officer looks at, kind of the totality of the situation.

24:16 Jeff Weinstein

Well, I got to tell you the odds are in your favor after 10, right?

24:21 Jean Dark

Uh-hmm.

24:22 Jeff Weinstein

At night of Friday, Saturday, labor day, weekend, I remember mom saying nothing good happens after 10 o'clock at night.

24:30 Jean Dark

All right. Well, my dad used to say 9:00, so he is saying that he wants us to be there. He has seven girls. So, he wanted us to be on our way before that time was, I'm really going down back far. But, I'm going to tell you what, it is not uncommon to find drunk drivers. People who have been partying all night and say just go to bed at 2, 3, 4 o'clock in the morning, right? And then they have to get up and go to work at 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning. Now, if you have partied all night and/or at 0.10 by the time you crash out and go to sleep at say 2 o'clock in the morning or 3 o'clock in the morning, how many hours do you think it is going to take for you to go all the way back down to zero?

25:24 Jeff Weinstein

Wow.

25:25 Jean Dark

How many hours do you think?

25:26 Jeff Weinstein

I'm going to guess. I'm going to say it takes 4 to 5 hours so that will be...

25:32 Jean Dark

How about weekend?

25:34 Jeff Weinstein

Really?

25:35 Jean Dark

So, how about the people that are partying that are even...and I'm telling you when something goes out and they're really drinking at a club and they're going to be well over 0.10. Okay. So, if you are say 0.15 or 0.2, really intoxicated. So, how many hours it is going to take someone...you get up, say you crash at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, you've got 4, maybe 5, hours of sleep under your belt, when you get up, take your shower, brush your teeth, hit your coffee, get your paper, and head out that door, and think, "Man, I just don't feel all that good. I'm going to take a couple of aspirin and everything is going to be okay." You are still going to be intoxicated, 0.08 is still on that, and if you hit over that 0.15 mark, you are still going to be over 0.08 when you get up and go to work the next morning if you're looking at 4 or 5 hours of sleep. So, this is the reason why...

26:42 Jeff Weinstein

So, probably you're not going to help.

26:45 Jean Dark

No. No! That just makes you a caffeine kind of buzzing drunk. Same with a cold shower. That just makes you a cold wet drunk. Nothing is going to metabolize the alcohol in your system any faster than what's your body will normally allow, but there's nothing that can speed it up. There's all kind of psychological gimmicks.

27:13 Jeff Weinstein

You're not going to believe this Trooper Dark. We have 2 minutes to go.

27:18 Jean Dark

Oh my God.

27:19 Jeff Weinstein

The first thing I need to do I think is thank you for labor day weekend, taking time away from your family, other obligations you have. You know, it's really fascinating to me.

27:34 Jean Dark

And let me warn your listeners that a DWI conviction stays on your criminal and driving records forever.

27:43 Jeff Weinstein

Well, that's what I want to ask you, the last couple of minutes. The one thing I want to ask you is okay, you've been stopped for DWI, all right? And you've gone through field sobriety test, whatever happened has happened, now you've been arrested. Just tell people, what the future holds now?

27:58 Jean Dark

Okay. So, for the first offense, the law allows a maximum of six months in jail, a $2000 fine, and a one-year driver's license suspension. Okay? So, DWI conviction also carries a $1000 surcharge for three years. So, bam, bam, bam! Three years in a row, $1000, bam, a $1000 the next year, bam, $3000 right after that.

28:24 Jeff Weinstein

Major consequences.

28:26 Jean Dark

Major consequences, in addition to any other fines or costs that are associated. That's just for your driver's license. Okay? We're not even talking about hiring your attorney, we're not talking about court cost or anything else. So, you're talking about first time DWI offense that can cost you a upwards of $10,000 nowadays. It's ridiculous.

28:48 Jeff Weinstein

You would think that that would get people's attention?

28:51 Jean Dark

You know, the other two ways that you get people's attention are usually through their pocketbook or through something that has happened to a family member, something that has happened personally to them, so their feeling or their wallet. And people out there that are listening who have had somebody killed or injured in a DWI crash, you know exactly what I'm talking about with the emotional side of it, that they make an emotional decision, a decision right then that they are not going to put themselves or their family in that same position. Other people, you have to go more on the finance side.

29:36 Jeff Weinstein

Wow! Trooper Jean Dark, let me just day God bless you. God bless all of your troopers that are out there protecting us. Thank you for keeping the roadways safe. Thank you for coming on with me on a Sunday night, I'm out of your holiday, and would you be on again because we have 5 seconds. Would you be on again?

29:58 Jean Dark

I would love to be on again. It flew by so fast I was little bit concerned that I wouldn't have enough to talk about, I guess, but when you have something that you're certainly passionate about in. And I didn't even give you a chance to talk. I kind of feel bad.

30:12 Jeff Weinstein

You're right. All right. Do you think I can voice you back? It's still recording. So, let me voice you right back.

30:16 Jean Dark

Okay. It sounds good.

30:17 Jeff Weinstein

I'll voice you back. Bye.

30:20 Jean Dark

Okay.

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