The Traffic Lawyers of Texas was originally established at the Municipal Justice Bar Association Texas in 1992. This original association was the founded by Larry Rousseau of Houston, Randall Scott of Dallas, Marc Sideman of San Antonio, Woody McAndrew of Fort Bend County, and Pat Monks of Houston. These men organized the group in direct response to some unfavorable legislation passed in the 91 session. This legislation increased the court costs for traffic tickets and placed a burden on the judiciary’s ability to enter orders of deferred adjudication.
The group was joined with a large contingency of attorney’s from North Texas to pass legislation to reverse the defensive driving school’s special interest bill that directly affected the court’s ability to grant deferred adjudication. The association retained the services of Bill Pewitt as the association’s legislative representative. During the 93’ session the association was able to successfully lobby and amend the deferred adjudication statute to allow some degree of judicial flexibility.
The association elected its first president Larry Rousseau in 1993. Judge Rousseau took the helm of leadership and set up the Associations first CLE held in Arlington, Texas. To everyone’s surprise, over 80 attendees showed for the first day long course. The association has continued to hold annual CLE programs since its inception. The association has had 3 CLE programs in Mexico in conjunction with the Dallas Municipal Justice Bar Association.
The State organization works with 2 local traffic bar associations. The Dallas association known as the Municipal Justice Bar Association was formed in 1990. This association has continued to operate as an independent association and meets at the Belo Mansion in Dallas the 3rd Wednesday of each month. The Harris County Municipal Justice Bar Association was formed in 1995. Monthly meeting take place at Harry’s on Tuam and Brazos St the second Friday of the Month. The Harris County Bar has an annual CLE at the Houston Municipal courthouse the 2nd Saturday of February every year.
The Municipal Justice Bar Association of Texas officially became the Traffic Lawyers of Texas in 2015. The long time change came about to clarify the true make up and purpose of the organization. For years, the organization had been confused with the Texas Municipal Judges association. The board felt that it was time to clarify who we were and stand proud as Defense attorneys that protect the traffic bar. Over the years this organization has made outstanding contributions to the law.
After, the deferred adjudication statute was successfully amended and defended; other threats to the law arose in the legislature. We saw the first Red Light Camera Cases placed before the legislature in 1995. We were successful in heading off several attacks in the years to follow. Finally, after a sound defeat of the Red Light Camera bill in 2003, an amendment was snuck in on a Trucker bill. This amendment was used as authority to pass local RLC ordinances. The legislature clarified the language in 2007. Since the passage of many of the local RLC ordinances, many cities of repealed their local ordinances. This association was instrumental in presenting a bill to reverse the 2007 RLC amendment.
In 1989, The Federal government imposed a National mandate to clean up the Commercial Driving Business giving the States 5 years to come into compliance with the Federal Regulations. Those laws actually dated back to 1984, but had never been actively enforced. The State responded by passing the first Texas CDL legislation outlawing DSC and Deferred for CDL holders. In addition to these, there were numerous other provisions that bore heavily on the CDL holders, all of which took effect on September 1, 2003.
In 1993, the entire traffic bar was threatened by several bills that introduced Surcharge legislation for DWI, and traffic ticket convictions. In fact, the original bill created a surcharge event for completing a driving safety course, and electing to accept a deferred disposition in a traffic case. If it weren’t for the work of this association, every driving school completions would result in a conviction. And every deferred order would result in surcharge points assessed for our client’s records.
In 2017, the Red-Light Camera program was finally repealed. Our association has been fighting these Red-Light Bandits since 1995 when they first showed up in the legislature. Governor Abbot adopted our mission and made it a mandate to repeal the stature authorizing these programs in Municipalities through Texas. The only exception was to allow cities to continue their programs if they had existing contracts. The Texas constitution forbids the interference with the rights of parties with existing contract. But the civil ruling found on these remaining cases have no effect in law and will not be allowed to hold up a registration of a vehicle.
The legislature met in 2017, and the TLOT was on board with some sweeping changes with Traffic law. The first, was the repeal of the Driver improvement program. This nightmare was first past in 2003, and lead to the suspension of almost 1 million drivers. The program was known as “the surcharge program”. Surcharges were imposed on drivers for DWI convictions; as well, convictions for No Insurance, no drivers license, and driving while suspended tickets. The statute was supposed to raise money for Trauma care. But instead, it left almost a million Texas drivers with no license. The surcharge program offered payout and forgiveness programs. But 70% of these suspended drivers could not afford to pay these surcharges. This resulted in drivers taking chances with driving on suspended drivers licenses and driving with No Insurance. The legislature finally dropped the program and forgave all surcharges beginning September 1, 2019 by eliminating the surcharge website completely.
The long time Omni fee for cases that fell into FTA status was amended. Since the 90’s these DPS fees of $ 30.00 were charged on every case filed with Omni Corp on San Antonio. Municipalities and Counties would file delinquent cases with Omni when cases feel delinquent by the appearance dates. The only way these fees could be waived was if the defendant were found not guilty on the underlying charges. A dismissal of the case would not erase the Omni fee due the State for removing the administrative hold. The legislature took on the role of reducing this fee in half to $ 15.00 a case beginning January 1, 2020 for all new cases file that year.
In a flash, the playing field was sharply tilted in the favor of law enforcement. The real, imminent threat of losing CDL business, or at minimum, the end of the way we had approached it, as well as the possibility of a new bonanza of business, were at once apparent. With those changes came a need to understand and master the new regulations and their implications for the truckers, their employers and our practices. The association met the challenge with a statewide education program to inform our lawyers on how to handle CDL holders throughout the state. What could have been a disaster, instead turned out to bring our membership together to help our CDL clients throughout the State of Texas.
The amendments the new law made to TEXCODECRIMPROC Art. 45.051 contained the “No DSC, No Deferred” law for CDL holders (supra). Because it was clearly at odds with the pertinent Federal Statutes, it was ripe for an amendment, which one of our members, David Lee, drafted and stewarded through the legislative process. DDisp was thereby restored as a remedy for Administrative, “equipment violations” (aka MCSRs) and Overweight & Oversize offenses. Once again, members took effective action both to protect our clients, and our ability to effectively practice law.
Our Network of attorneys is a clearing house, a beacon of knowledge and proper procedure to the other traffic practitioners. And we are the State Standard by which to handle CDL/DOT problems in Texas, but we also welcome the input of those not currently members, and invite them to join us.
This website, in turn, exists to increase and facilitate the interaction between the TLOT and the public and other attorneys who practice in our area of concentration. It will serve as a portal for others to hire us or to join our number and have the benefit of our truly vast collective knowledge and experience, as well as providing a way for TLOT members to simplify the complications inherent in our practices.