SENTENCING IN A DWI CASE: ARE JUDGES LIMITED?

There are many parts to any DWI case in the Dallas Texas area. Typically, a DWI begins when a police officer pulls over, investigates, and makes an arrest on suspicion of DWI. What follows from there is a number of steps that eventually lead to one of several things:

  • The charges are dropped and the case dismissed;
  • The case is plead out and the defendant and prosecutor come to an agreement;
  • The case goes to trial and the defendant is found guilty or not guilty.
  • Barring rare circumstances and cases, this is what typically happens in a DWI case.

When a DWI case ends up in a guilty conviction, the guilty defendant will have to face some sort of sentence for the DWI conviction. Each DWI charge brings its own set of penalties and potential sentences. The sentencing for any particular case can vary based on a number of factors such as how many previous convictions the person has, blood-alcohol level, and other factors.

Potential Sentences for DWI Convictions

The penalties and sentencing for DWI in Texas can vary widely. For example, in a first time offense for DWI a person will face:

  • A fine of no more than $2,000;
  • A jail sentence ranging from 180 days to a year;
  • Loss of driver license up to a year and fees of up to $2,000 for a driver to keep his or her license.

In contrast with these penalties, for a third conviction of DWI the guilty party would face:

  • A fine of up to $10,000;
  • Anywhere from two to 10 years in state prison; and,
  • Loss of license and fees to retain a future license of up to $2,000.
  • For other DWI-related offenses there will be different potential fines, sentences, and penalties.

Case on Sentencing

Is a judge limited in how much of a sentence he or she hands down after a conviction? This is the question that a Texas Court of Appeals had to answer in 2007.

In that case, a woman pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated and transporting a minor child under the age of 15. The woman left the issue of punishment up to the trial court who handed down a serious sentence. The judge could have given a sentence ranging from 180 days to two years, and handed down a one-year sentence. The woman appealed arguing that the court was too harsh.

In its opinion confirming the trial court’s sentence, this court of appeals noted several things that every DWI defendant should keep in mind.

Texas courts generally uphold sentences that are within the range allowed by law;
What is a typical or reasonable sentence must be on the record at the trial level for an appeals court to decide whether a sentence is too harsh.
These are just some of the considerations that every DWI defendant must think about before pleading guilty or going forward in a DWI case.

At the Wilder DWI Defense Firm we represent people accused of DWI in the Dallas, Texas area. If you have been charged with DWI, contact us. We will provide you with a comprehensive look at your case, what you can expect, and what steps are available to – including going to trial.