Natural Gas Home Explosion Injuries

Dallas Home Explosion Raises Injury Liability Questions

By | Premises Liability

The Dangers of Natural Gas in the Home

Natural Gas Home Explosion InjuriesUsing natural gas in your home can be very beneficial: it is more efficient than electricity, coming at cheaper cost, while getting more work done. However, gas does have some dangers associated with it. Natural gas is highly flammable and sometimes undetectable to the everyday person. This can lead to fires or even explosions in the home, causing thousands of dollars of damage.

Home Explosion in Dallas, Texas in February 2018

Natural gas is believed to be the related to a recent explosion at a home in Dallas. Current reports indicate that one person was tragically killed and others severely injured. Neighbors have evacuated their homes, while the city and the gas company look into the problem. Initial reports indicate that the explosion occurred near a gas heater in the house.

According to NBC DFW, the explosion prompted the evacuation of over 700 students from nearby Stephen C. Foster Elementary School.

For more on this story, click here.

For information on the Railroad Commission of Texas’ Gas Services, click here.
Pipeline Investigations from the National Transportation Safety Board, click here.

What to do if you have damage from a natural gas explosion/fire:

If you have suffered injuries or the loss of a loved one caused by a fire or explosion, it is important to know your rights.

Following a fire or an explosion, an investigation should be done to determine the cause of the incident. Depending on the cause, there may be several liability issues to address. For instance, faulty or leaking gas lines may implicate the utility company. If defective appliances contributed to the explosion, the sellers and manufacturers may be liable. These are complicated liability issues that should be discussed with your attorney.

Should you have damage from a fire or explosion that is caused by natural gas, contact your attorney to work through investigation and discuss your course of action.

Distracted Driving Injury Lawyers

The Dangers of Distracted Driving in Texas

By | Car Wreck

Distracted Driving Injury LawyersSince the invention of cellphones and the growing popularity of texting, car accidents resulting from distracted driving have increased year after year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claimed 3,477 lives and injured 391,000 people nationwide in 2015. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reports that 1 in 5 crashes in Texas are caused by distracted driving. This is a nationwide issue that is taking the lives of Americans every day. However, distracted driving is an issue that can be prevented.

What is Distracted Driving?

The NHTSA defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving.” There are three types of distractions, according to DMV.org; visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions involve taking your eyes off the road, for example looking at something in the vehicle or an event taking place on the side of the road. Manual distractions include removing one or both hands from the steering wheel, such as adjusting the air conditioning controls or radio. Cognitive distractions take your mental focus and attention away from driving, for example, day dreaming or deep thinking. Common distractions include eating, drinking, smoking, talking on the phone, talking to a passenger, adjusting the radio or air conditioner, looking in the mirror, applying makeup or shaving, watching a video, responding to emails, and texting. Using a cellphone or texting while driving is incredibly dangerous because it combines visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. To send a text while driving, a driver takes his eyes off the road to look down at his phone screen, he takes at least one hand off the steering wheel to hold the phone, and stops paying attention mentally to think about what he is typing. Looking down at the phone just for 5 seconds while going 55 mph means that the vehicle traveled the distance of a football field without the driver paying any attention. In that distance, many things can happen, including an accident with devastating effects.

Distracted Driving Impact on Texas

Distracted driving is a growing problem in Texas. In 2016, TxDOT reported that distracted drivers in Texas caused:

  • 109,658 crashes (a 3% increase from 2015),
  • 3,000 injuries, and
  • 455 deaths

In Tarrant County alone, distracted drivers were responsible for 8,210 crashes, 23 of which were fatal crashes in 2016.

Texas Laws Regarding Texting While Driving

Laws regulating cellphone use while driving differ between states and cities. As of September 1, 2017, the use of a “wireless communication device for electronic messaging” while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited in the state of Texas after the adoption of House Bill Number 62. The offense is considered a misdemeanor and punishable with a fine between $25-$99, however it may increase to between $100-$200 if there is a prior conviction for the same offense. This includes texting and emailing while driving. The Texas Transportation Code Title 7. Sections 545.424, 545.425, 545.4251, 545.4252 provides, in relevant part:

  • If the driver is under 18, they cannot use a wireless communication device.
  • A bus driver may not use a wireless communication device while operating the bus if a minor is present.
  • All drivers are prohibited from using handheld devices while driving in school zones.

Exceptions to these laws exist for cases of emergency, reporting illegal activity, using a hands-free device, using a global positioning system, playing music, or when the device is permanently affixed to the vehicle and is part of the operator’s duties.

Ways to Bring About Change in Distracted Driving

Distracted driving isn’t someone else’s problem. It’s our problem and it could impact you or your loved ones. There is no badge of honor for multitasking while driving. We all share the road and when we are distracted while we are driving, we endanger the lives of everyone around us. Here some things you can do to prevent distracted driving and make a difference on the road:

1. Eliminate Distractions

Before you start driving, enter your destination into the GPS, adjust the air conditioning, find the right radio station or queue up your songs, and send your last text or email. Secure loose objects that might roll around once you start driving so you aren’t temped to reach for them and so they don’t roll under your feet. Take care of grooming and eat at home. Get everything done before you start driving. If you absolutely need to respond to something, pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road.

2. Some Apps are Good

Recent iPhone software iOS 11 has a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature that can be manually or automatically enabled or be activated when connected to a car Bluetooth system. This feature can sense when you are driving and silences notifications such as text messages. It can even send an auto-reply to people who have messaged you, telling them that you are busy driving. Phone calls will only come in if connected to a Bluetooth hands-free system. The customizable feature can be found in the “Settings” app under “Do Not Disturb.” An app with similar functions is “LifeSaver,” which can be downloaded in the App Store or in Google Play.

3. Speak Up When You are Riding With a “Distracted Driver”

While we can only control our own actions, we can encourage those we ride with to avoid distracted driving as well. When you’re a passenger in a vehicle and the driver is distracted, speak up and remind them about the importance of focusing while driving. Offer to take care of the distraction for them. Politely tell them that you’re uncomfortable riding in their car while they’re distracted. Talk to your friends and family about the dangers of distracted driving and hold each other accountable.

4. Make a Pledge

Hold yourself accountable by making a pledge not to drive distracted. There are many websites with pledges, some where you can donate to different foundations or dedicate your pledge to someone, such as the “Just Drive” pledge with the National Safety Council.

Injured By a Distracted Driver? Free Case Evaluation

If you or a loved one have been injured by a distracted driver, contact our personal injury attorneys for a free case evaluation. We have offices in Fort Worth and Keller or we can send one of our attorneys to meet with you if you have a difficult time traveling. We do not charge any fees for injury cases unless we win a damages award for you. Contact us today at (817) 993-9249 or send us a message.

Additonal Notice for Suppression Hearing

No Additional Notice Required for Suppression Hearing on Trial Date

By | Trial Advocacy

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Determines That There Needs to be No Additional Notice Provided to the State When Holding a Suppression Hearing On the Day of a Trial

Additonal Notice for Suppression HearingThe Court of Criminal Appeals recently handed down a decision affirming a trial court judge’s decision to hold a suppression hearing on the day the trial was set, but before voir dire or any trial proceedings occurred. State v. Velasquez, 2018 Tex. Crim. App. LEXIS 52. After a prior motion for continuance by the State was granted, the defense submitted 16 pretrial motions, including a motion to suppress evidence. On the day of the trial, both sides announced ready, and the judge chose to hold the suppression hearing before jury selection. The State objected because they were not provided with proper notice of the hearing (and because their witnesses were not present to testify for the motions hearing before jury selection), but the objection was overruled and the judge ruled in favor of the defendant. The Fourth Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge’s decision, but that was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals, affirming the trial court ruling on the motion.

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 28.01

The State based its appeal on Article 28.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. This statute enables the judge to schedule pretrial hearings (Section 1), requires notice of these hearings to be provided to the defense (Section 2), and gives the required means of providing notice (Section 3). The State claimed that it was not provided adequate notice of the pretrial suppression hearing under this statute, and therefore, should have been given an opportunity to delay the hearing and trial.

Section 1

Article 28.01(1) allows for the court to set a pretrial hearing before it is set for a trial upon the merits. The Court of Criminal Appeals recognized that this creates two separate settings and that the court must provide adequate notice for any new and separate hearing. Included in this list of settings is a suppression hearing in Section 1(6). The court also acknowledges that many suppression hearings are done as a part of trial, and that parties should be capable of arguing for or against suppression at the time of the trial. In this case, the State was not prepared for the suppression hearing and refused to argue, forcing the court to rule in favor of the defendant.

Section 2

Article 28.01(2) requires the court to provide notice of at least 10 days to the defendant in order to allow the defendant enough time to respond and raise any additional preliminary matters. The State argues that it is entitled to notice, however, the Court points out that the statute only provides for notice given to the defendant. The Court decided that the State has no right to additional notice for a pretrial motion that will be handled on the day of the trial, so long as notice of the trial day setting was given to the State.

Section 3

Article 28.01(3) establishes the acceptable methods for providing notice to the defendant. Notice can be given through an announcement in open court in front of the defendant and his/her attorney, personal service to defendant, or by mail.

Court of Criminal Appeals’ Conclusion

Ultimately, the CCA held that it was appropriate for the trial court to hold a suppression hearing on the same day as trial, despite not giving additional notice to the State. The notice of the trial setting was sufficient to make the State aware of the possibility of a suppression hearing, and the State should have been ready for that hearing. The court sees a distinction between a pretrial setting and handling a matter just before the trial begins. Because suppression hearings are often held in conjunction with trials, this action was proper. Article 28.01 does not apply in this instance because there was no new, separate setting, and the party complaining about notice was the State. The Court understands that there could be improvements to the notice requirements, but as a member of the judicial branch, they are not empowered to make those changes.

Uber Lyft Accident Liability Texas

Are Uber and Lyft Liable for the Accidents of their Drivers?

By | Car Wreck

Uber Lyft Accident Liability TexasIn the past couple of years, rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber have risen to prominence, grabbing a sizable market share from traditional taxi cab and town car companies. With more and more of these companies offering rides from their part-time drivers, we are also seeing accidents involving the drivers for these companies. These accidents can sometimes have confusing liability issues that accompany them. It is important to know how to proceed and what you are entitled to if you are involved in an accident with a rideshare driver, as a passenger or another driver.

Can You Sue the Rideshare company? Who is Liable in a Lyft or Uber Accident?

As with most legal questions, the answer is, it depends. Liability for an Uber or Lyft accident will depend upon whether the driver is logged on to his rideshare company’s app, and if so, whether the driver is waiting for a ride request or actively giving a ride. The Texas Insurance Code Chapter 1954 requires rideshare drivers to carry specific insurance policies that provide coverage regardless of their activity, so you will need to ascertain a few facts before you determine your course of action.

Was the Driver Logged on to the Rideshare App?

If the driver was NOT logged onto the ridesharing app, then the driver’s personal insurance will be responsible for covering the driver in the event of an accident. There generally will not be any ramifications for the rideshare company, and no real reason to pursue any claims against them. Of course, we would need many more facts to determine the exact course of action. If the driver is logged on to the rideshare app, you will need to determine whether they are in-between rides, or actively participating in a ride.

Was the Driver in-between Rides When the Accident Happened?

This is the largest gray area in the new insurance law. While coverage is required, there is no requirement regarding who must cover the driver. Many insurance companies exclude coverage on drivers using their personal vehicles for ridesharing purposes, and rideshare companies are hesitant to provide the additional coverage since they are not required to by law. Ridesharedashboard.com lays out the coverage options in Texas, pointing out that currently, only GEICO and Farmer’s offer coverage to both Uber and Lyft drivers, while MetLife will cover Lyft drivers only, and Allstate is currently working on their rideshare policy.

Nonetheless, the Texas Insurance Code Sec. 1954.052 requires rideshare drivers to be covered by a 50/100/25 policy. This means that they must be covered up to $50,000 for bodily injury or death of each person in an incident, $100,000 for bodily injury or death of a person per incident, and $25,000 for damage or destruction of property of others. This is a higher level of coverage than the standard 30/60/25 policy required for Texas drivers. This should not be an issue as drivers are required to notify their insurance provider if they are driving for a rideshare company. However, it will be very important to determine who is covering the driver in the event of an accident. Fortunately, there is a safeguard in Sec. 1954.054 that requires the rideshare company to cover claims in the event the driver’s policy has lapsed or does not cover the claim. If you find yourself in this situation, please get as much information from the driver as possible and contact an attorney immediately.

For driver’s logged onto the rideshare app but currently in-between rides:

  • Uber Provides: 50/100/25 coverage for its drivers and can supplement the personal policy
  • Lyft Provides: 50/100/25 coverage in the event a driver’s personal policy does not cover this much.

Was the Lyft or Uber Driver Engaged in a Ride?

The term “engaged in a ride” can mean two things: either the driver was on his way to pick up a passenger, or the driver currently had a passenger in the car. If the driver involved in the accident was currently engaged in a ride, that driver MUST be covered by a $1 million coverage policy according to Texas law. Recent legislative action in many states has pushed for this coverage, influencing these companies to adopt these insurance policies. Should you be involved in an accident with an engaged rideshare driver, whether as passenger or third party, this insurance should provide coverage for damages caused by the driver.

For drivers “engaged in a ride:”

  • Uber Provides:
    • $1 million coverage for damages caused by driver
    • $1 million coverage for damage done by an under/uninsured motorist
    • Supplemental coverage for collision and comprehensive personal policies
    • These will cover the rider if a rider is in the car with the Uber driver
  • Lyft Provides:
    • Lyft will take over as primary provider
    • $1 million coverage for damages caused by driver
    • $1 million coverage for damage done by an under/uninsured motorist
    • Supplemental coverage for collision and comprehensive personal policies

What Should You Do if You are Involved in an Accident with a Rideshare Driver?

  1. Get to a safe place and call 911. Safety and health are the first priority.
  2. Take pictures of the accident and surroundings.
  3. Get the names, phone numbers, addresses of everyone involved and any witnesses.
  4. Get the name of the rideshare driver, determine whether they were logged on to the rideshare app, whether he/she was engaged in a ride, and get a picture of the insurance policy
    • Under Sec. 1954.056b, the drivers are required to provide this information in the case of an accident
    • If you are the passenger of a rideshare when the accident occurs, screenshot the app on your phone
  5. Call your attorney.

 

To review companies’ insurance policies, click on their Logo below:

Uber Accident Coverage TexasLyft Driver Liability in Texas

Bus Driver Consent Search Wise 2017

Can a Bus Driver Give Consent to Search the Passenger Compartment?

By | Search & Seizure

The Case of the Not Too “Wise” Bus Passenger

United States v. Wise, 877 F.3d 209 (5th Cir. TX 2017)

Bus Driver Consent Search Wise 2017FACTS: In this case, police officers were conducting bus interdictions at a Greyhound bus stop. After a certain bus stopped, the driver got off the bus and the officers approached him requesting consent to search the passenger cabin of the bus. The bus driver consented to a search and two experienced narcotics officers in plain clothes boarded the bus. The officers did not block the exit or otherwise obstruct any of the passengers from departing the bus. One officer walked to the back of the bus while the other officer remained at the front.

The officer at the front of the bus noticed a man who was pretending to be asleep. The officer found this suspicious, because in his experience, criminals on buses often pretended to be asleep to avoid police contact. The officer walked past the “sleeping” man and turned around. The sleeping man (named Morris Wise) then turned to look back at officer, revealing that he was not asleep after all. The officer then approached Wise (now awake) and asked to see his bus ticket. Wise gave the officer a bus ticket, bearing the name “James Smith.” The officer had a hunch that James Smith was a fake name. The officer then asked Wise if he had any luggage with him on the bus. Wise said yes and motioned to the luggage rack directly above his head.

Wise then gave the officers consent to search the duffle bag in the overhead compartment. The officers did not find any contraband in the duffle bag. The officers also noticed a backpack near Wise and asked if the backpack belonged to him. Wise denied ownership of the backpack. The officers then asked the other passengers about the backpack and no one claimed it, so the officers removed the backpack at the bus driver’s request.

Outside the bus, a trained police canine alerted to the backpack. The officers then cut a small lock off the backpack, searched it, and found seven brick-type packages that appeared to contain cocaine.

The officers then went back onto the bus and asked Wise if he would mind getting off the bus to speak to the officers. Wise complied with the officers’ request and got off the bus. The officers asked Wise if he had any weapons, which he denied that he had any weapons, and then they asked him to empty his pockets.

From his pockets, Wise gave the officers his ID card with bearing the name “Morris Wise” and a lanyard with several keys attached to it. Not surprisingly, one of the key opened the lock that the officers had to cut off of the backpack (that Wise said was not his). The officer then arrested Wise, and the government charged him with several drug-related offenses.

Motion to Suppress the Search as the Fruits on an Illegal “Checkpoint Stop”

Wise filed a motion to suppress the evidence as a violation of his 4th amendment right against unreasonable searched and seizures. The district court held that the officers’ conduct in searching the bus constituted an unconstitutional checkpoint stop. In addition, the district court held that the bus driver did not voluntarily consent to the officers’ search of the luggage compartment where the backpack was located. As a result, the district court suppressed all evidence the officers seized after the stop.

The government appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

First, the court held that the district court incorrectly characterized the officers’ bus interdiction as an unconstitutional checkpoint. The court noted that the Supreme Court’s cases involving checkpoints involve roadblocks or other types of conduct where the government initiates a stop to interact with motorists. In this case, the officers did not require the bus driver to stop at the station. Instead, the driver made the scheduled stop as required by his employer, Greyhound. In addition, the officers only approached the driver after he had disembarked from the bus, and the driver voluntarily agreed to speak with them. The court concluded that the interaction between the officers and the driver was better characterized as a “bus interdiction.”

Second, although Wise had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his luggage, the court held that as a passenger, Wise did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the luggage compartment of the commercial bus. As a result, the court concluded that Wise had no standing to challenge the officers’ search of that compartment, to which the bus driver consented.

Third, the court held that the officers did not seize Wise, within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, when they approached him, asked to see his identification, and requested his consent to search his luggage. Instead, the court concluded that Wise’s interaction with the officers was a consensual encounter because a reasonable person in Wise’s position would have felt free to decline the officers’ requests or otherwise terminate the encounter.

Finally, the court held that Wise voluntarily answered the officer’s questions, voluntarily emptied his pockets, and voluntarily gave the officer his identification and keys.

Can Police Stop You for Driving on the Improved Shoulder of the Road?

By | Drug Crimes

State v. Cortez (Tex. Crim. App. 2018)

Jose Cortez was stopped because a Texas State Trooper allegedly observed him driving on an “improved shoulder” in violation of Texas Transportation Code § 545.058. The officer testified that Cortez touched the white “fog” line of the road and crossed it twice. During the ensuing stop, the trooper searched Cortez’s vehicle and found drugs. Cortez moved to suppress the stop (and the search) arguing that the officer lacked probable cause to initiate the stop.

What is Driving on the Improved Shoulder?

The Texas Transportation Code also defines “improved shoulder” as a “paved shoulder” with the “shoulder” being the “portion of the highway that is:

  •  adjacent to the roadway;
  • designed or ordinarily used for parking;
  • distinguished from the roadway by different design, construction, or marking; and
  • not intended for normal vehicular travel.”

The Texas Transportation Code §545.058 prohibits drivers from driving on the shoulder unless it is necessary and done safely, “but only:

  1. to stop, stand, or park;
  2. to accelerate before entering the main traveled lane of traffic;
  3. to decelerate before making a right turn;
  4. to pass another vehicle that is slowing or stopped on the main traveled portion of the highway, disabled, or preparing to make a left turn;
  5. to allow another vehicle traveling faster to pass;
  6. as permitted or required by an official traffic-control device; or
  7. to avoid a collision.”

Court Suppressed the Traffic Stop Because Driving on the Shoulder Did Not Violate Any Laws

In this case, the trial court determined, after careful review of dashcam footage and officer testimony, that Cortez did not appear to touch the fog line, and that even if he did, that was not a violation of the law. The courts also reasoned that if Cortez did cross the line, he was doing so to let the officer pass and to exit the highway, both reasons justified by the statute. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s suppression of the stop. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed and affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

What Does This Mean for Texas Drivers?

First, it is not illegal to touch the white line of the shoulder under Texas Transportation Code § 545.058. If you are pulled over for this, the courts have determined this is not a violation of the law and does not provide a reasonable basis for an officer to pull you over and search your vehicle.

Second, if you do cross the white line, that is not necessarily a violation. If one of the acceptable reasons above is present, then it is permissible to cross the shoulder line and the police will not have a reasonable basis for stopping you and should not stop you or search your vehicle.

Overall, you should pay close attention when you are driving. But the courts have acknowledged that it is nearly impossible to drive in a perfectly straight line. The police do not automatically have a reasonable basis to stop you if you cross the white line, and they have NO basis for stopping you if you merely touch it. However, as we have always said, if you are stopped, be polite, be courteous, and do not consent to any searches.

NOTE: Presiding Judge Keller dissented in this case and would hold that driving on the white fog line does constitute driving on the improved shoulder in violation of the transportation code.

Megans Law Sex Offender Passport

Passports Revoked for Sex Offenders Pursuant to New Law

By | Sex Crimes

Megan’s Law and the Implications for Passports of Registered Sex Offenders

Sex Offender Passport LawIn February of 2016, we wrote about President Obama signing Megan’s Law and the implications that the law would have on passports.

Effective January 11, 2018, in accordance with Megan’s Law, the U.S. State Department has started to revoke passports issued to registered sex offenders. The law was passed October 31, 2017 but is now in effect. This law prevents the Department of State from issuing passports to sex offenders without a unique identifier printed on the person’s passport and authorizes the State Department to immediately revoke all passports currently held by registered sex offenders that do not contain this identifier.

Required Endorsement for Sex Offender Passports

Passports re-issued to registered sex offenders will now bear an endorsement on the passport, which will read:

“The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor, and is a covered sex offender pursuant to 22 United States Code Section 212b(c)(l).”

According to federal law, endorsements cannot be printed on passport cards, so qualifying individuals will not be issued passport cards.

This new procedure by the State Department does not prohibit registered sex offenders from leaving the country. But, it certainly leads to the presumption that this identifying marker on these passports could very likely lead to these individuals being denied entry into other countries.

In the coming weeks, the Department of State will be sending letters to those individuals covered under this law notifying them that their passports are now revoked.

There are a wide number of crimes that can lead to a person being on the sex offender registry. These crimes can include sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child, online solicitation of a minor and viewing or sharing child pornography (either inadvertently or on purpose).

For more information, visit the Department of State website.

 

Drone Laws TX Drone Registration

Rules for Drones | Drone Registration and Penalties for Failure

By | Criminal Defense

Drone Laws TX Drone RegistrationDrones or Quadcopters were a popular Christmas gift this year. While many new drone owners are probably preoccupied with learning to fly without getting the propellers stuck in trees or crashing them over their neighbor’s fence, they need to take a moment to learn about the federal registration rules for unmanned aircraft.

*Federal drone registration had been struck down by an appeals court in May of 2017, but the National Defense Authorization Act that was passed in December 2017 reinstated drone registration.

Do I Have to Register My Drone?

Maybe. Any unmanned aircraft system (“drone”) that weighs more than .55 pounds must be registered with the FAA. Depending on the size of the drone, it can be registered under:

  • Part 107, Small UAS Rule,
  • Section 336, the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, or
  • 14 CFR Part 47, the Traditional Aircraft Registration

Registration Under The Special Rule for Model Aircraft

Most people register their drone under this provision. The Special Rule for Model Aircraft allows for registration of a drone between 0.55 lbs and 55 lbs for recreational use only. Under this registration:

  • A person is allowed to fly their drone within their line of sight,
  • A person is required to follow the community-based and nationwide guidelines,
  • A person is not allowed to fly their drone over an airport or to interfere with emergency response units, and
  • A person must notify an airport when they are flying within five miles of an airport.

In order to register under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, you must:

  • Register as a “modeler” with the FAA,
  • Be at least 13 years’ old,
  • Be a legal United States citizen or legal permanent resident, and
  • Label your drone with the registration number in case it is lost or stolen.

This registration, which can be completed online costs $5 and lasts for 3 years.

Registration of Drones Between 0.55 lbs and 55 lbs Under the Smalls UAs Rule

The Small UAS Rule allows for registration of a drone between 0.55lbs and 55lbs for recreational and commercial use. Registration is REQUIRED by the FAA. Under the Small UAs Rule a person may:

  • Fly their drone at or below 400 feet (Class “G” airspace)
  • Fly during daylight or civil twilight
  • Fly at or below 100 miles per hour.

With a drone registered under Part 107, the pilot:

  • Must yield to manned aircraft
  • Cannot fly directly over people,
  • Cannot fly from a moving vehicle unless you are in a sparsely populated area.

In order to obtain your registration under the Small UAs Rule, you must:

  • Be at least 16 years old,
  • Have a valid credit card, email address, and physical/mailing address,
  • Pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center,
  • Undergo a Transportation Safety Administration security screening, and
  • Denote the make and model of your aircraft when applying for registration.

The Small UAS Rule registration, which can be completed online costs $5 and lasts for 3 years.

Traditional Aircraft Registration for Drones Greater Than 55 Lbs

Traditional Aircraft Registration must be completed for any unmanned aircraft weighing over 55 pounds. The paperwork for drones greater than 55 pounds can be found on the FAA website and must be turned in via regular mail. Drones over 55 lbs will require an N-number that you have to submit to the FAA. The FAA website lays out the necessary information for an application.

This registration costs $5 and lasts for 3 years.

What is the Penalty for Flying a Drone Without Registering it?

Failure to register an unmanned aircraft can result in regulatory penalties up to $27,500 and criminal penalties up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years. Penalties are determined on a case by case basis and will vary based on the judge.

The FAA provides on its website:

“There is no one-size-fits-all enforcement action for violations. All aspects of a violation will be considered, along with mitigating and aggravating circumstances surrounding the violation. In general, the FAA will attempt to educate operators who fail to comply with registration requirements. However, fines will remain an option when egregious circumstances are present.”

Do you have to register your drone if you only fly over your own property?

Even if flying over your own property, the FAA still requires registration of your drone. The penalties for failure to register an unmanned aircraft will apply even if the drone does not leave your property.

What Other Drone Rules Should I Be Aware of?

Every registration allows for different flight regulations, so pay close attention to what you register for and what that particular registration allows you to do. The FAA has developed an app called “B4UFLY” which gives you important information about your location and the flight restrictions in that area. This app is recommended by the FAA to help avoid violations of the registration limitations. For any additional questions/concerns, visit the FAA website.

DWI No Refusal Christmas Fort Worth

Twas the Night Before No Refusal Weekend in Tarrant County

By | DWI

Tarrant County No Refusal Period for the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays

Tarrant County typically implements a No Refusal period during major holidays.  Being in the Christmas spirit, we thought that our No Refusal warning would be better if it rhymed.  Enjoy our Christmas No Refusal poem.

DWI No Refusal Christmas Fort Worth

Twas the night before Christmas, the police are all out,
Searching for drunk drivers that might be about.
They’ll be near the parties at restaurants and taverns.
They’ll pull your car over for bizarre driving patterns.
They’ll give the field test, “walk the line, heel to toe,”
And if you misstep, to the pokey you’ll go.
They’ll ask you to blow in the breath test device,
To see how much eggnog you’ve had on this night.
And if you refuse, to a magistrate they’ll dash,
To get a search warrant as quick as a flash.
So take an Uber this Christmas, a lesser price you’ll pay.
Don’t drink and drive on this No Refusal Holiday.

False Report Child Abuse Texas

Penalties for Falsely Reporting Child Abuse or Neglect in Texas

By | Child Abuse

False Report Child Abuse TexasUnder Section 261.101 of the Texas Family Code, persons are required to report if they have cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare is being or has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect. The report is to happen immediately (or within 48 hours if the reporting person is a professional). The law further grants “immunity” to the person who reports or assists in the investigation if that person had “good faith” when they made the report.

What is a “Good Faith” Report of Child Abuse or Neglect?

Put simply, a “good faith” report is an honest and sincere report. The law wants to encourage folks to report so that the State can investigate and ensure that children are not being abused or neglected. However, falsely (or without good faith) reporting child abuse to CPS or other agencies is not to be used as an act of retaliation or aggression toward others. A false report damages the child’s welfare in itself because the child will be subjected to an investigation where none should have been pursued. Unfortunately, we have seen this occur in the context of highly contested family law cases and in some criminal cases as well. More recently, there were allegations of a false report made to smear a political opponent.

What are the Legal Penalties for Falsely Reporting Child Abuse or Neglect in Texas?

Section 261.107 provides the civil and criminal penalties associated with falsely reporting child abuse in Texas. This section provides that “a person commits an offense if, with the intent to deceive, the person knowingly makes a report…that is false.”

Criminal Penalty for False Report

Knowingly making a false report of child abuse or neglect in Texas is a State Jail Felony offense. The punishment range for this offense is 180 days to 2 years in a State Jail Facility and a fine up to $10,000. Further, if a person has been previously convicted of this same offense, a second offense is a Third Degree Felony which subjects the person to a prison term of 2 years up to 10 years.

Attorney’s Fees Reimbursement for the False Report

As a monetary penalty in connection with the criminal case, the court shall order any person that is convicted of making a false report to pay the reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the person against whom the report was originally made.

Civil Penalty for False Report

The Family Code further provides that any person who engages in false reporting is liable to the State of Texas to pay a civil penalty of $1,000. The Texas Attorney General is responsible for bringing the action to recover the civil penalty.

What Do I Do if Someone Has Made a False Report to CPS About Me?

First of all, contact an attorney. Depending on the posture of the investigation, you may need representation and advice to help get through the allegations, even if they are false. If, however, CPS has already ruled out the allegations and no criminal action has been pursue, you should first gather your evidence. We have been with people at the police station when they made reports that they had been targeted by false CPS allegations. It is our experience that the police agency will want you to bring proof that the report was false or made in bad faith. Simply because CPS closed out the investigation and determined that there was “No Reason to Believe” that the allegations were true does not necessarily mean that the reporting individual acted in bad faith. Collect your text messages, social media messages, witness statements, and other evidence before you go to the police station to claim that you were the victim of a knowing false report. Because the State wishes to encourage reporting, it is reluctant to punish a person who reports unless there is clear cut evidence that the report was made in bad faith.  Again, it is best to contact an attorney to help you through this.