AUSTIN (KXAN) — In August of 2021, police arrested Scott Taylor for manslaughter after crashing into, and killing, 20-year-old Colton Roberts, a college student, on Jollyville Road in northwest Austin.

“Colton was my best friend,” said his mother Tanya.

Roberts’ family, and the attorney now representing them in a civil lawsuit against Taylor, believe he shouldn’t have been behind the wheel that day in the first place.

Tanya, Roberts’ mother, clutches a photo of her son as she leaves the courtroom.

“The evidence in this case suggests that Mr. Taylor would have been exceeding the speed limit, driving with no headlights on, crossing over into oncoming traffic and admitted to smoking a “Blunt” prior to driving,” reads his arrest affidavit from the crash. Other court proceedings show evidence of Taylor also using methamphetamine before driving that night.

KXAN dug further into Taylor’s case, finding evidence of multiple DWI arrests.

According to his Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) criminal history report, Taylor has two previous misdemeanor DWIs — one in 2000 and another in 2010. They occurred in Travis and Comal counties, respectively.

Unless elevated circumstances are at play, DWIs don’t become felonies until an individual’s third.

A 2015 arrest affidavit shows Austin Police arresting Taylor for DWI on Taylor Draper Lane. According to his DPS record, this ultimately became a Reckless Driving charge. Misdemeanor court records show the DWI charge getting dismissed, and Taylor instead receiving probation for reckless driving.

“Many nights of worry and fear not just dealing with the loss of my amazing son, but being worried about our community,” said Tanya Roberts, referring to concerns about Taylor still being able to drive after his 2021 arrest.

We asked the District Attorney’s Office as well as the APD what circumstances led to the change in charge. We will update this story when we get a response.

“It is very common for an individual to be arrested and charged for DWI at the beginning of the process,” said criminal defense attorney and retired judge Charlie Baird. “It is also frequently the occasion where [the charges] are changed for a number of reasons from DWI to perhaps obstructing of the highway or reckless driving or some other kind of traffic offense.”

Texas DPS statistics
Texas DPS stats break down conviction rates for DWI cases.

APD’s DWI unit was disbanded amid staffing shortages so that those officers could work patrol and respond to 911 calls, meaning that APD no longer has “dedicated officers focusing on traffic enforcement.”

The department sent us the following statement regarding how APD currently addresses serious crashes involving intoxicated drivers:

APD has continued training a small group of patrol officers as Drug Recognition Experts. These officers are currently the subject matter experts in impaired driving cases. These officers will often assist in serious cases involving intoxication. These officers are also responsible for helping with cases where the driver might be impaired by a substance other than alcohol. 

With the assistance of Austin Transportation and Austin EMS, APD has been running a No-Refusal initiative every weekend to help gather evidence after drivers have been arrested for DWI

Austin Police Department

Regarding the crash that killed Roberts, Taylor had been out on bond until a hearing Wednesday morning. Travis County prosecutors filed a motion to revoke the bond because they said Taylor consistently either failed or did not comply with mandatory drug testing, which was a condition of the bond.

A judge granted that motion.

“We’ve tried Mr. Taylor to work with you.” said the judge. “And you’re now testing positive for methamphetamine, the substance you’re accused of being on when you plowed into this young man. So I’m going to revoke your bond.”

Attorney Amber Russell with LOAR, who is representing the Roberts family in a civil suit against Taylor said Taylor will remain in jail until his next hearing at the end of April.

“I think after this step on this long road to justice for Colton I will hopefully finally get a little bit of sleep tonight,” said Tanya.

Taylor’s attorney said he’ll speak more about the case after the April hearing. During Wednesday’s hearing, he tried to convince the judge to grant Taylor house arrest instead of sending him to jail.

Colton’s community

“The community that has come around him and rallied around our family these last 18 months has truly been incredible,” said Tanya. “We had over 300 people at Colton’s memorial.”

Roberts’ Chi Phi fraternity brothers are contributing to a scholarship at the University of Texas at Dallas set up by the family in his name.

“The Colton William Roberts Scholarship for Geosciences was endowed in 2021 to honor the life of Br. Colton William Roberts. Colton served as the New Member Educator for our chapter, and was known for being a kind, devoted, enthusiastic and hard-working student,” a Facebook post about the scholarship reads.

The group held an event earlier this week in honor of Roberts and to raise money for the scholarship fund.