Let it never be said that being charged with DWI is “no big deal.” A man from Montgomery County, Texas recently found himself at the business end of a serious jail sentence following his sixth DWI conviction over the course of his life. While this case is extreme, it shows why each charge of DWI should be taken seriously, and vigorously defended against.
According to reports, in his latest DWI this man was involved in a three-car crash and tried to leave the scene. Witnesses there tried to get him to stay, but it seemed he knew what would happen to him if caught. Of course this was not his first run-in with the law and DWIs.
In the span of his life, this man was arrested, charged, and convicted of DWI six times. In one of those instances he was convicted of DWI manslaughter and spent over a decade in jail. Following his most recent DWI, the judge in the case sentenced him to 50 years, not an uncommon sentence when the defendant has multiple, serious convictions for DWI.
Texas Sentencing Guidelines in DWI Cases
It is true that a first time DWI will not typically end in a long or serious jail sentence. But after a person is convicted of one DWI, every charge after that brings with it more serious consequences. If a person has a record of DWI convictions, the prosecution is going to take recurring charges more seriously, and judges do, as well.
Under Texas law a basic first time DWI carries with it a potential sentence of three to 180 days in jail. This is in addition to loss of license and potential fines. But a second DWI increases that sentence to one month to a year, and third DWI could end in a 10-year sentence. Then, after three DWIs, the court has considerably more power to hand down stiffer sentences, as we saw happen in this case.
Is Double Jeopardy Violated?
One question that arises regarding enhanced penalties based on prior convictions is whether they violate the double jeopardy provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment guarantees the right of not having to face the same charges twice. So why then can the state use prior convictions and essentially put a driver at risk of being punished twice for the same crime?
The answer to this constitutional query was settled by the Supreme Court. In 1998 the High Court decided that a state can use prior convictions as a basis for enhancing a sentence for a current crime. That case was narrowly decided by a 5-4 vote, but it remains the law today. The lesson: Every DWI charge is a serious one and should be defended with all the vigor of any other serious criminal charge.
Defending Your Rights
If you are charged with DWI you need the right legal team fighting and defending those charges. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm our team of dedicated professionals will aggressively defend you, and help you understand what your legal options are going forward. Contact us today, and we will give you a free case evaluation.
(image courtesy of Larry Farr)