In a rare event for the court of appeals out of the Fourteenth District, a man convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor DWI had that conviction reversed. His case was sent back to the trial court with the instructions that it be reduced to a Class B Misdemeanor because the prosecution failed to prove their case at the guilt/innocence phase of trial.
This case began back in May of 2015. The police responded to a call about a parked car in the roadway at 1 a.m. When they arrived they saw that the driver was asleep, and that he did not have a shirt or shoes. They also saw an open cup of beer in his car and that led them to begin their investigation of DWI.
In cases like these, the police assume that a person drove to a location where they parked. This is how they charge people with DWI even if they were not observed actually driving the vehicle. That is the assumption that was made here. Following that assumption, the police investigated further and discovered that he had a blood alcohol content of .0184, much higher than the legal limit of .08.
Trial for DWI
Given the evidence against him, the man did not have a strong position at trial, and was convicted of DWI. Once the man was convicted, the trial moved from deciding whether the man was guilty or innocent, to deciding what the punishment should be for the crime committed. This is an oft overlooked phase of criminal defense, and requires as much effort and attention as the actual guilt and innocence phase of a trial.
During the punishment phase of trial, the prosecution tried to introduce evidence about this man’s previous DWI conviction so it could be used to enhance the conviction from a Class B Misdemeanor to Class A Misdemeanor. The problem with that approach is that the prosecution has the burden of proving all criminal elements to a charge during the guilt and innocence phase of a trial, and they failed to do so.
Because the prosecution did not prove every element of the crime they needed to at trial, the court reversed the conviction, and mandated it be reduced. This is largely because of the state’s burden in every criminal trial to prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case they failed to show that the defendant had a previous DWI conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore could not actually convict him of the more serious Class A Misdemeanor DWI.
This case illustrates an important point about DWI defense. To catch all the details that are involved in a DWI case, every DWI defendant needs the right legal team with the experience and knowledge of the law that is related to DWIs. Otherwise the person could be paying for crimes not committed, or not rightfully adjudicated.
If you are facing charges of DWI in Texas, contact us. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm our name says it all. We focus our practice on DWI defense so that we can bring the best available defense to each of our clients. When you contact us we will provide you with a free case evaluation.
(image courtesy of Pawel Kadysz)