99 Years for DWI?

Recent headlines throughout Texas have revealed shockingly long sentences being handed down for DWI. In the most of these eye popping sentences a man was convicted of DWI by a jury, and then handed a 99-year jail term as his sentence.

To be fair, this was the eighth DWI conviction of the man’s life. That stretch of DWI history goes back to 1983. Since then he has spent years in jail for other DWIs, and in this final sentence he may never be outside of bars again. According to reports, this latest DWI was first reported when he was swerving down the road near Austin, Texas.

While some of these sentences are understandable, they also raise questions about the criminal justice system and what we are doing with such long and punishing sentences. This is an age old question of the western criminal justice system: Are we punishing crimes, deterring them, or working to prevent future crimes through rehabilitation?

In this case the prosecutor is quoted asking the jury to hand down a 99-year sentence so “we can all sleep at night.” This is an obviously emotional argument bent on getting the jury to hand down a sentence without weighing other factors in the case. For example, if this is the eighth time a man is convicted of DWI, might that indicate another problem that can better be addressed through treatment, therapy, or some other means?

These questions are even more important in the wake of a shrinking economy where state and federal budgets are down. Housing a person in prison is an expensive proposition. This is particularly true where there could be other means of rehabilitating and working with people to prevent future crimes, instead of simply putting someone in a small metal container for a given amount of time.

Sentencing for DWI in Texas

While there are compelling arguments for how and why to reform our current way of dealing with DWIs, the reality is something else. The facts are that if you are convicted of DWI in Texas you will be facing jail time. In addition to time in jail, there are fines, penalties, and other considerations that make up the sentencing system.

There is not a predetermined sentence for DWI in Texas, but a range depending on the individual factors of the case. Those ranges include:

  • First time offense: Fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, and loss of license and annual fee associated with a returned license;
  • Second time offense: Fine of up to $4,000, jail term of one month to a year in jail, loss of license for two years and annual fee;
  • Third offense: $10,000 fine, two to ten years in prison, and loss of license with annual fee.
  • These ranges and penalties are bad enough, but additional DWI can result in even worse consequences. As this case shows, a man was given 99 years for his eighth DWI, and that could happen to you, too.

If you are facing DWI charges, contact us. Our team of DWI defense professionals at the Wilder DWI Defense Firm will take your case, investigate the facts, and apply the law on your behalf. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.