Another Houston Baker Street Pub Sued

Who is Liable, the seller or the drinker?

Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub is being sued again following the death of Robert Wilhite’s 2011 death.  Wilhite’s family is accusing the pub of over-serving alcoholic beverages to him just before he died near the Willowbrook bar’s location.  The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) governs seller/server laws in Texas, and specifically states that establishments who sell or serve alcohol and their employees are responsible for making sure patrons are not served to the point of intoxication.  Over the past three years there have been several lawsuits involving Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub.  Below is a timeline of some of the latest lawsuits.   Do you think the bar is liable?  Do you think the server is liable?  Or, do you think the patron drinking the alcohol is liable?  Leave your comments below.  This should be a good discussion!

April 2009 Delia Jones sued the pub following a serious car accident that killed her daughter and injured her son-in-law after they left the bar.  Her daughter Jessica Ayala was killed in the accident, but her husband Guillermo Ayala survived.  Guillermo was driving their vehicle oh Texas Hwy 3 when he lost control and crashed into a tree. 

February 2011 Sherlock Pub’s River Oaks location was closed (and still is) after HPD officer Jose Coronado killed Omar Ventura in the bar’s parking lot.  Both men had been drinking alcohol inside the pub before the incident.  Coronado was reportedly trying to break up a fight in the parking lot, when he found it necessary to fire his weapon at Omar and his brother Rolando Ventura. Omar's brother Rolando survived the incident.  Omar Ventura’s family sued Baker Street Pub accusing them of serving alcohol negligently, specifically blaming their happy hour policy as a catalyst in the incident.  Coronado was temporarily relieved of duty, as HPD rules state that officers cannot use their enforcement authority when under the influence of alcohol.  Coronado was under the legal limit when he attempted to break up the fight.

November 2012 A 24-year-old bartender at Baker Street Pub’s Woodlands location was arrested early on a Sunday morning after allegedly over-serving a patron the night before.  The allegedly intoxicated man, who was also arrested, was reportedly shouting racial slurs and stumbling in public. He didn’t need to hire a DWI lawyer because he never even tried to drive a vehicle.  The man was charged with Public Intoxication and disturbing the peace.  But the bartender went to jail…

June 2012 Another lawsuit was filed against their Clear Lake location in 2012 by the family of Martinique Rubio, who claimed that the pub was responsible for his death in 2011.  However, unlike the other cases Rubio was not driving when he left the pub.  He rode in the back of a friend’s truck, but fell out and was killed by another car on the road. 

January 2013 Robert Wilhite’s family sues Baker Street Pub seeking damages for his death, claiming that the church going father was served past the point of intoxication.  The family claims that Baker Street Pub was negligent in serving Wilhite alcohol, and letting him get in a car to drive.  This is the third time in as many years that the Baker Street Pub has been sued by a family alleging that they served a patron past the point of intoxication, allegedly causing their motor vehicle deaths. 

What do you think?

Unfortunately for the owners of Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub, their bar is the common denominator in all of these unfortunate events.  One could blame the popularity of the bar and the media attraction it gets for the countless lawsuits filed against it.  Conversely one could point the finger at the bar’s serving policy, or the individuals who served the customers themselves.  Is this really a series of unfortunate events or is there a pattern here?

 

Houston Scores Better than Other Texas Cities for Quality Drivers

 Men’s Health Magazine released a study that they recently conducted to see which cities had the best and worst drivers.  Houston ranked 46th in the nation for bad drivers, and Dallas ranked even worse in 14th place for this unceremonious award.  Anyone who has ever visited the beautiful city of Corpus Christi wouldn’t be surprised by their 11th place spot either.  Even the Alamo couldn’t help San Antonio from ranking worse than Houston in the 25th spot. Our state's beautiful capital still ranked worse than us in 41st place.  Luckily for us in Houston, we rank better than four of the most populace cities in Texas. 

They got these results from studying factors that increase drivers’ safety, such as speeding, frequency of car accidents, seat belt usage, and drunk driving stats.  Obviously Houston drivers are doing something wrong to end up on the list of the worst drivers in America. But anyone who spends a lot of time driving in this city doesn’t need Men’s Health Magazine to point that out!  I’m actually surprised that Houston is ranking as low as it is in their study for poor quality drivers.  When I originally saw a report about this study’s findings here, I was shaking my head thinking “of course Houston has the 4th worst drivers in the country”.  Then I read the real report and realized they made a pretty sizeable error interpreting the data. 

Houston is not ranked fourth, or anywhere near the top 10 for cities with the worst drivers.  But Corpus is!  I’m surprised Corpus Christi was not ranked higher honestly.  Corpus Christi has a population of about 308,000 people.  It is a relaxing beach town with many thriving businesses and a great local vibe.  The only bad thing about Corpus Christi is the drivers.  Here’s a tip I learned the hard way in Corpus Christi: when you are on the feeder road, be prepared to stop frequently.  In Corpus Christi, drivers don’t slow down when they exit the freeway because they expect all of the traffic on the feeder road to stop when they see a car exiting.  Needless to say, this town’s drivers need some serious driving lessons.

However annoying unique driving habits in cities are, they are not the reason that these cities ranked high for being the worst cities to drive in.  Look at this table from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Texas is off the charts for driving fatalities alone, not even considering drunk driving or any other contributing factors.No wonder so many of our cities are on this list!  If you're a DWI lawyer in Houston, Texas you might want to consider living in Corpus Christi. You'll get more clients per capita there.

 

 

References:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Traffice Safety Facts: State Motor Vehicle Fatalities and State Alcohol-Impaired Motor Vehicle Fatalities, 2011.  http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811699.pdf

 

Oregon Teenager Posts Drunk Driving Status on Facebook

 People write all kinds of desperate and stupid posts on Facebook, but one teenager from Astoria, Oregon takes the cake with his self-implicating post.  His Facebook post said “Drivin drunk… classic ;) but to whoever’s car I hit I am sorry.  :p.” This could have been just another desperate status update to get people’s attention, but a couple of his Facebook friends took this post seriously.  So serious, in fact, that they forwarded the message to the local police department.

First of all, any DUI or DWI lawyer will tell you never to admit guilt or submit to an alcohol test if you are stopped by the police.  However, this teenager was helpful enough to take all of the police work out of the two damaged vehicle reports they had received earlier.  Thanks to him, the two damaged vehicles’ owners now have evidence against him to make an insurance claim. 

Luckily for this teen, he was not pulled over while “drivin drunk”.  However, police officers did go to his house and charge him with two counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver.  Let this be a lesson to everyone out there that it is never okay to plead guilty to driving under the influence on Facebook or any other social media sites!  It is not advisable to plead guilty to any other crime on social media sites for that matter.

The teenager has told the media repeatedly that he was only being sarcastic, and that the icy roads caused him to slide into the two vehicles.  He says that he posts sarcastic stuff like that all of the time.  Well, if he continues to post sarcastic, incriminating status updates he will not have to worry about his Facebook friends for long because he will be in prison.  Hopefully he learned his lesson, and put a breathalyzer on his Facebook account.

 

New DWI Task Force for Entire Houston-Galveston Area Announced

 The Houston police department has a DWI task force, and the Galveston Police Department has a DWI task force.  However, plans to form a new regional DWI task force that would unite officers from 13 counties were announced just before Christmas.  The reason for the new task force is supposedly to make better use of the area’s pooled resources.  However, some might see it as overkill.

There are already very large and active DWI task forces operating in both Galveston and Houston.   The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) states that the new DWI task force will help out during peak holiday season. The Texas Department of Transportation is footing the bill for the new Houston –Galveston area DWI task force that will only be in operation on holiday weekends.  It seems like the money might be better spent helping the DWI task forces that already exist instead of shoveling out money for a new organization that will only organize during holiday weekends a few times a year. 

A regional DWI task force such as this is unheard of in Texas.  While many mid to large sized cities in Texas have DWI task forces, and even small towns put extra officers on the schedule during the holiday season, a task force 13 counties strong is a first.  The new Houston area task force will put approximately 50 extra patrol cars on the roads during the holiday seasons that are solely dedicated to finding drunk drivers. 

It’s unclear how Houston and Galveston’s DWI task forces feel about the extra patrols.  While initially I thought they would be pleased to have more help on the roads during the busy time, the thought did cross my mind that they would feel uncomfortable with it.  It‘s just like at work when a new department is created to perform your job duties, but you haven’t been fired yet.   Hopefully it will all work out for all of the officers involved.

DWI arrests in the Houston-Galveston area have already gone down tremendously over the last few years. More people are making responsible choices when it comes to drinking and driving.  However, if you find yourself facing drunk driving charges, contact a Houston DWI Lawyer right away.

Holiday No Refusal Blood Draw Back in Houston for 2012

 The holiday blood draw days are back, and they have nothing to do with a blood drive for charity.  Throughout the holidays, up until New Years Day, DWI Task Force and BAT vans will be out in full force.  Extra staff will be on hand to assist police officers in attaining timely search warrants to forcibly draw blood from anyone suspected of driving under the influence or while intoxicated.

The Houston police department (HPD) does not release its strategy or areas of concentration to crack down on drinking and driving during the holidays.  Luckily for people in Houston and throughout Texas, DWI checkpoints are not allowed here.  However, the DWI task force strategically places officers at points of high traffic volume and DWI likelihood. 

If you live in one of the trendy hot spots in Houston with a dense population of nightspots and restaurants such as the heights area (Washington Ave. in particular), Galleria, City Centre, or Westheimer Rd., be extra careful over the holidays.  These areas are not only well known as great destinations for a night out, they are known to law enforcement as high concentration areas for drunk driving.  The Houston DWI task force will be waiting for you to make any little mistake or forget to use a turn signal while driving in these areas.

If you’re going to go out to celebrate at a dinner party, restaurant, or bar over the holidays, make sure you have a designated driver or other transportation arrangements. With Houston police saturating the roads this holiday season, and a no refusal blood draw week ahead, it would be silly to take any unnecessary chances.

However, the holidays are meant for celebrating, and sometimes our judgment calls are not as sharp as we hope they will be.  If you are arrested for DWI or DUI charges, call the Offices of Johnson, Johnson, & Baer, P. C. today.  

Beating Positive Breathalyzer Results: Why Breathalyzer Tests Can Be Wrong

 We all know that drinking and driving is never a good idea.  There is no excuse for getting drunk and getting behind the wheel of a car.  However, what if you only had one drink or a sip of alcohol, even none at all, and you tested positive on a breathalyzer test?  This type of thing happens more than you think.  Recently in San Francisco over 1,000 false positive readings were thrown out, and prosecutions overturned because of such results. 

How can Breathalyzers Yield False Positive Results? 

1.        Improper Breathalyzer Calibration

Improper calibration was the main cause of the over 1,000 conviction turnovers in San Francisco last spring.  Every make and model is different, and law enforcement divisions must follow the equipment manufacturer’s guidelines for calibration exactly for the results to be accurate.  In the California incident, the 20 breathalyzer units were supposed to be calibrated every two weeks.  However, San Francisco law enforcement failed to maintain the equipment manufacturer’s guidelines and was forced to overturn hundreds of convictions based on the outcome of the breathalyzer test results.

2.        Alcohol Residue in Mouth

This may sound silly, but a breathalyzer is designed to measure the amount of alcohol saturation from the air in a person’s lungs.  The human body releases alcohol through the lungs as a way of processing and expelling it.  If a person has just taken a sip of alcohol, they will have residual alcohol in their mouths that the breathalyzer assumes is from the lungs.  This can yield a much higher reading than the actual amount of alcohol in the person’s body. Therefore, each breathalyzer recommends that the testing officer wait a certain period of time (usually about 20 minutes) before administering the test for accurate results.  If you have just downed half a glass of wine before getting pulled over, the residual alcohol in your mouth will mislead the breathalyzer into thinking you just drank an entire bottle.

3.        Breathalyzer Interference

Many things can cause false positive readings on breathalyzer tests, the most common being an elevated number of ketones in diabetics’ blood that causes an increase in acetone in their breath.  Some breathalyzer tests are sensitive to acetone and mistakenly register it as alcohol.  Other substances can cause false positive results as well such as paint fumes, chemical fumes, mouthwash, gum, cough syrup, and even herbal supplements. 

4.        Other Breathalyzer Reading Errors

A breathalyzer can also improperly measure BAC during the absorption phase of alcohol consumption. Absorption time varies depending on the person, but it can last anywhere from half an hour to two hours.  In the absorption period, alcohol is not evenly distributed through the blood stream and can yield erroneous breathalyzer results. 

Did You Test Positive for Alcohol on a Breathalyzer Test?

If you tested positive on a breathalyzer test you need to contact a DWI lawyer immediately to start building your defense.  Only an experienced DWI lawyer will have the knowledge and expertise necessary to fight for you in court.  If you are facing DWI or DUI charges after testing positive on a breathalyzer test, hire a DWI  or DUI lawyer today. 

 

 

 

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Parales to Head Houston DWI Task Force Despite Reprimands

 

 Last month Police Chief Charles McClelland named Daniel S. Parales as the new Houston DWI task force supervisor.  The reason his appointment has provoked so much controversy is because he was reprimanded in April for not charging an HPD officer with a DWI when he was clearly intoxicated.  After colliding with a school bus and testing a BAC of over twice the legal limit, Parales let the officer go and attempted to cover the whole thing up. 

Teresa Argueta was driving the privately owned school bus when the accident occurred, and luckily was the only occupant.  She was later cited for running a stop sign.  Argueta claimed that the vehicle Sergeant Ruben Trejo was driving at the time of the accident contained opened beer and wine bottles, and that Trejo smelled strongly of alcohol. 

Officers who responded to the scene were later reprimanded for not taking the bottles as evidence.  However, the officers claimed that the bottles Argueta spoke of were unopened. 

Teresa Argueta’s son, Aaron Argueta, rushed to the scene of the accident after receiving a phone call from his mother about the accident.  When he arrived he immediately went to the site of impact and attempted to take pictures of the alcohol in the police officer’s car. Argueta claims that the officers threatened to arrest him if he photographed the inside of the car.

Chief McClelland continues to defend his decision of appointing Parales as the new Houston DWI task force supervisor, stating that Parales and the other officers reprimanded in the event will in no way repeat the mistakes they were disciplined for.

Sergeant Trejo was charged with a DWI two weeks after the accident, and has since retired from his position as an HPD Sergeant. 

Aaron Argueta voiced concerns over what he thinks was an obvious cover-up.  He told the media that if he had hit a school bus while driving drunk, he would most certainly be in a penitentiary. 

However, the Houston Police Officer’s union has been extremely critical of McClelland’s punishment towards the HPD officers who responded to the scene of the April 13th accident.  The union thinks that the punishment was unnecessary, and that the officers did not make any mistakes that would warrant such reprimands. 

Even Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) agrees with Parales’ appointment as supervisor of the Houston DWI task force.  MADD says that they are happy with any concentrated efforts to stop drunk driving in Houston.

Public controversy over HPD and other local law enforcement agencies is nothing new in Houston.  Only last month the Harris County Sherriff’s parole department was under scrutiny, and hundreds of drug tests were deemed inadmissible in court.  It is safe to say that Sergeant Trejo will need a good Houston drunk driving lawyer to defend him, as leniency in his trial is highly unlikely.

 

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Future San Francisco Archbishop Arrested for DWI

Salvatore Cordileone is a 56-year-old bishop in Oakland, California.  He was pulled over at a checkpoint near San Diego State University at approximately 10pm while returning home from dinner with a few friends at his mother’s house.  Officers suspected that he was impaired, and administered a breathalyzer field sobriety test.  He was found to be over the limit and booked into the San Diego County jail at around midnight.

California’s DUI charge is the same as a Houston DWI charge, although their names differ slightly.  Although the amount by which he surpassed the legal limit has still not been made public, he would not have passed a breathalyzer in Houston either because Texas and California both consider .08% blood alcohol content to be over the limit.

He has apologized emphatically for bringing shame upon his church and self.  The Pope appointed him to be the next archbishop of San Francisco, which will take place on October 4th assuming that no disciplinary action takes place.  The only party that could discipline him from within the Catholic church is the Vatican.

While Cordileone has apologized for his behavior and no doubt feels anxious about further disciplinary action from both the government and the Vatican, this incident may actually benefit the Bishop.  Luckily none of the passengers in the car that he was driving were injured, but his momentarily lapse of judgment may actually help make this devout Christian more human in the eyes of his community. 

Just like Texas, California has an implied consent law that requires anyone who has a driver’s license to submit to an alcohol or drug test if police officers suspect they are impaired.  This means that Cordileone has already had his driver’s license suspended, and is facing certain jail time.

Houston DWI lawyers fight penalties similar to California’s DUI penalties, which Cordileone will soon be very familiar with if not already.  If convicted, Cordileone will have to file proof of insurance, complete a DUI treatment program, have his driver’s license suspended for six months, pay substantial fines, and serve up to six months in jail.

Apologetic Cordileone and the forgiving Christian community who are supporting him (regardless of his very public mistakes), serve as a shining example of the human spirit.  Cordileone is set to take a position of elevated responsibility within the Catholic church, which has created controversy considering the charges he faces.  However, he retained his dignity in the face of this controversy by his honorable apologies to the public and the church.  He seems honestly sorry for his actions, and the implications they may have on the reputation of his church.

 

Houston Police Announce DWI "No Refusal" for July 4th Weekend

Harris County DWI Enforcement Officers are at it again with another DWI "No Refusal" weekend planned for the 4th of July.

So what exactly does that mean?  It means that if you are arrested for DWI and refuse to voluntarily give a breath test or blood test, the Government will forcibly put you in a chair and stick a needle in your arm to take your blood. 

Although the Texas Courts disagree with me, I firmly believe that our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures in all aspects of our lives should cover a misdemeanor DWI charge.  In my opinion, the involuntary taking of a citizen's blood should not be allowed in misdemeanor DWI cases.  Let me know your thoughts on this or any other DWI related matters.

Headline Irony: "Former MADD Head Charged With Drunken Driving"

Let's just say the headline struck me as quite ironic.  It seems every other day MADD seems to be cramming some new piece of propaganda or legislation down our throats. 

Let me further say that this woman should be afforded the presumption of innocence and all other constitutional protections just like every other DWI and criminal defendant. 

Unfortunately and ironically, it seems that MADD has and continues to tear away at the presumption of innocence in DWI cases.  Even before a person is convicted of DWI, MADD has pushed legislators to require DWI suspects to install Ignition Interlocks in their vehicles - so much for the presumption of innocence in these cases.