A recent appeal case out of the Court of Appeals of Texas shows how serious a felony DWI conviction can be. The defendant in that case was found guilty of his third felony DWI and sentenced to life in prison under Texas law.
This case is a reminder of just what is at stake in every DWI case. Once charged, a defendant must fight the charges so as to not jeopardize his or her future. If it is a third charge for felony DWI the stakes are even higher because a potential sentence is life in prison.
What Happened in This Case
A man was found slumped over and asleep in his truck by a police officer. It was reported in the court’s opinion that the man’s car was parked near a railroad track. The officer was concerned that if train had approached it would have caused a major collision.
At the scene, the police officer asked the man to get out of his truck and as he did so, the police officer testified that he could smell a strong odor of alcohol. It was at this point that the DWI investigation began.
DWI investigations often follow a repeatable pattern. The police officer smells alcohol coming from the car, the driver’s eyes are bloodshot, and the police ask the driver to take some tests. The same thing happened here, and the police officer testified that the driver failed the horizontal-gaze-nystagmus test. But the driver did refuse to perform other tests. At the conclusion of their investigation, the police officers arrested the man and booked him.
The case went to trial and the man was convicted of felony DWI. The biggest issue, however, was the fact that the man had two prior felony DWI convictions. As a result, the judge in the case handed down a sentence of life in prison.
Life in Prison for Three DWIs
Few would argue that the offense of DWI is not a serious one, but making someone spend the rest of their life in prison for three DWI convictions can seem harsh. This was one of the arguments that the man in this case put to the appeals court in his case.
The man appealed his sentence and argued that the sentence of life in prison was cruel and unusual. The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from handing down a punishment that is cruel and unusual, but determining what that means poses a difficult problem for courts. The man in this case argued that because the crime he was convicted of was not violent in nature and did not adversely affect anyone but himself, he should be given a lighter sentence.
The court did not agree. Citing precedent from previous cases, the court denied the argument and upheld both the conviction and the sentence. Now the man will have the choice to appeal further or spend the rest of his life in prison.
The case underscores why each defendant in a DWI case should fight the charges. Within the confines of the criminal justice system it is difficult to find mercy or kindness from people who want to see you locked up in jail. If you have been charged with felony DWI, or any other type of DWI, contact us. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we will be your advocate in the criminal justice system and ensure that we fight the charges you face.