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Austin Personal Injury Attorney Adam Loewy Addresses Impact of Policing Shortage on Victims’ Rights in Drunk Driving Cases

Attorney Adam Loewy cites anti-law enforcement policies by Austin’s municipal government as the reason why one of his clients had to wait several hours for police after a drunk driving accident. Police in Austin, TX, allegedly took more than two hours to respond to 911 calls after a suspected drunk driver slammed head-on into a pickup truck driven by Lacey Purciful, with her husband Dustin and their children riding along. According to Loewy, the other driver admitted to drinking and smelled of alcohol, so Purciful and her family called 911.

Austin car accident victim Lacey PurcifulHowever, according to Purciful, Austin police did not show up for more than two hours, enough time for the other driver to sober up. Purciful eventually took to social media while waiting for officers to arrive, venting her frustration as she and her children sat injured and shaken at the crash scene. “This is the drunk man who hit me – two hours ago,” Purciful claimed on a video post. She continued, “This man has now had two hours to sit here and sober up because the City of Austin has not come.”

The accident occurred in a part of the city that should have had 25 police officers on patrol but only had five officers on duty on the day of the crash. Because the police took so long to respond, they could not obtain a reliable alcohol test from the other driver and could not charge him with DUI. Loewy states that Purciful only has a civil lawsuit as a recourse against the other driver and potentially one against the bar or restaurant that served him. However, pursuing a drunk driving civil claim becomes much more challenging without an arrest or criminal conviction to serve as evidence of the driver’s intoxication. 

Loewy Appears on Fox and Friends to Discuss the Case

Adam Loewy, a well-known personal injury lawyer in Austin,  recently appeared for an interview on Fox and Friends with the Purcifuls to discuss the case. The interview began with the Purcifuls describing the crash, explaining that the accident occurred on a four-lane street. They explained that a city bus alongside their vehicle blocked their view of the drunk driver until right before the collision, preventing Lacey from braking or swerving to avoid the crash. The Purcifuls stated that the other driver also never attempted to brake and, after the crash, admitted that he had just come from a bar. They noted that passengers on the bus who got out to help the Purcifuls and the other driver could smell the odor of alcohol on the other driver, who refused to get out of his vehicle for half an hour. The Purcifuls stated that they and various bus passengers made several calls to 911. After the fifth call, the dispatcher admitted that the city did not have enough police officers to respond to the accident. Finally, they noted that the other driver never underwent alcohol testing as he refused treatment at the crash scene. 

Adam Loewy noted that, historically, police would respond promptly after receiving a call about a motor vehicle accident. However, he said the city has not had enough police officers over the past three or four years. While Loewy commended the officers on the force for doing the best job possible, he blamed the city council for the police department’s understaffing. Loewy noted that the city council attempted to reduce police funding by about $100 million a few years ago and recently refused to vote on a new collective bargaining agreement with the police union. 

Loewy Blames Defunding of Law Enforcement Funding for Austin’s Woes

Loewy blames woke city officials in Austin for the lack of police presence. Loewy stated that “when Austin defunded the police, there has been a huge drop in the number of police officers who are on the force.” Loewy argued, “the estimates are 300-400 fewer police officers than we need, and so this is manifesting itself in situations like this.” According to Loewy, chronic understaffing of the Austin Police Department has resulted in numerous situations like Lacey Purciful’s over the past three years. Loewy stated, “I’ve had cases where people get into accidents and police don’t show up for hours. It’s not an attack on the men and women of the department, because they all do the best they can – there’s just not enough of them.” 

Understaffing of the Austin Police Department has become such an issue that residents calling 911 have gotten redirected to the 311 non-emergency number, even for serious crimes like burglaries. Delays for emergency calls have become so prevalent that a local Austin newspaper published a guide for when and when not to call 911. During one recent night, the city lacked enough police officers to respond to vandals whose chaos shut down city streets and intersections, attacked an officer, and smashed up other police vehicles. 

Loewy cited the city government’s war with the police department, which increased in intensity in 2020 when the city council cut the department’s budget by a third and decreased the number of available police academy seats. According to Loewy, the city government has become “so antagonistic to police here that over 100 police officers have retired in the past six months. They’re having trouble getting new officers to enter the academy.” Loewy asserts, “it’s 100% on the city council.”

Austin’s new mayor, Kirk Watson, who took office this year, has claimed that the city has prioritized filling open vacancies in the police department. The city plans to give current officers pay raises and offer retention and recruitment incentives to bolster the department’s ranks. The mayor also states that the city will agree to specific financial demands of the Austin Police Association to encourage the union to resume CBA negotiations. However, Loewy believes that the city can’t stop the bleeding from the police department’s ranks. As Loewy noted, “This is what happens when you take on a police department and you don’t support them.”

Contact Loewy Law Firm for more information today.