Archive for April, 2015

Texas Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Habitual DWI

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

The vast majority of drivers are aware of the stiff penalties they can face if convicted of driving while intoxicated, or DWI. However, many of these same drivers are not aware of the severe punishment that drivers who are considered to be “habitual DWI offenders” can face if convicted of a DWI related offense. Just like all other crimes, as the number of prior offenses increases, so does the penalty. For example, a first time convicted shoplifter will receive a less severe punishment than a third or fourth time convicted shoplifter.  This same basic rule also applies to DWI. Whereas a first time DWI conviction is considered to be a Class A misdemeanor, a third time DWI conviction is a third degree felony.

Under the Texas Penal Code, a habitual DWI offender (or “habitual offender”) is defined as a person charged with DWI who is shown to have two previous felony convictions. If a person has a clean criminal record with the exception of DWI convictions, he or she would not be considered to be a habitual offender until he or she faced his or her fifth DWI charge. This is because the first two convictions would be considered misdemeanors and the third and fourth convictions would be the felonies needed to be considered a habitual offender. However, if a person has one or two prior unrelated felony charges on his or her record, then a fourth or even a third DWI charge would allow the prosecutor to charge the person as a habitual offender.

Unlike a regular felony DWI charge, a habitual DWI offender faces an even more severe penalty. The law allows a judge or jury to sentence a convicted habitual offender to 25 to 99 years, or life in prison. Such was the case recently in McLennan County, where a 48 year old man was sentenced to life in prison for his seventh DWI conviction.

People are often surprised to learn that the DWI charge that triggered his life sentence did not involve a serious injury or fatality. Rather, back in October 2012 the man according to police and observers was slumped over his steering wheel at an intersection in the middle of the afternoon, with his car running. After the man sat through three green lights, another motorist contacted the police. The man, who had to be awoken by police, had a large can of beer between his legs and his vehicle smelled strongly of alcohol. The man failed police sobriety tests and blew a .277 on a breathalyzer—more than three times the legal limit of .08.

The man had four prior misdemeanor DWI charges on his record and was sent to prison in 1998 and 2005 for two felony charges. As part of his current sentence, the man will have to serve 15 years before he will be eligible for parole—at the age of 63.

If you have been arrested and charged with habitual drunk driving, the first thing you need to do is to make an appointment to meet with an experienced Dallas County DWI Defense Attorney. As a habitual offender, the stakes are much higher and you too may be facing a lengthy prison sentence. Only a seasoned Dallas County DWI Defense Attorney can thoroughly review your case and protect your rights. DWI Defense Attorney Jack Pettit has represented countless persons charged with DWI. As a former prosecutor, Jack Pettit understands the severity with which the courts punish habitual offenders and will do everything he can to make sure you receive quality legal representation. Contact the Law Office of Jack Pettit today at (214) 521-4567 to schedule a free and completely confidential consultation. Our office provides services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.

Texas College Students: Dallas DWI Defense Attorney Explains How a DWI Can Impact Your Future

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Regardless if you are 21 or 45 years of age, being charged with DWI is a serious offense that can have life-changing consequences. However, when most people are charged with DWI they are primarily concerned with the consequences they could face from the Texas legal system. For instance, a first time DWI conviction in Texas can result in fines, loss of driving privileges and even jail time. However, after the fines and attorney’s fees are paid and the individual regains his or her driving privileges, most individuals are surprised to realize how the DWI continues to impact his or her life.

A DWI charge and/or conviction means that the individual now has a permanent criminal record. This means that anyone who performs a background check can discover the DWI charge and/or conviction. Unlike an older adult, a criminal record can have a unique impact on a college student (or high school students looking to apply to college in the near future). A DWI charge or conviction can affect the following aspects of a student’s life:

  • College Admissions: While many schools will not deny admissions to a person with a DWI there are some schools that will. Especially if the prospective student lies on his or her application about having been charged with a crime or having a criminal record.
  • Student status: If a person is already a student most college and university Student Codes of Conduct require that a student report any criminal charges to the school within a given amount of time. Certain institutions may put a student on probation or temporary suspension because of a DWI charge, while others may expel a student for a DWI conviction. Some schools offer students charged or convicted of DWI to avoid suspension or expulsion if the student completes a school approved alcohol and drug education program.
  • Housing: Students with a DWI charge or conviction could find themselves with difficulty finding a place to live. At certain schools, a student with a criminal record may be denied student housing. Students applying for private off-campus housing may find it more difficult to find a landlord who will rent to them.
  • Scholarships and Financial Aid: A student may lose his or her scholarship and/or a portion of his or her financial aid because he or she now has a criminal record.
  • Study Time: Most first-time DWI convictions will result in a temporary loss of driving privileges. If a student relied on driving to get to and from classes, he or she will have to find other transportation. The student will also have to pay attorney’s fees and fines, which may have him or her spending more time working at a part-time time—that could cut into his or her study time.
  • Job opportunities: Whether a student is looking for an internship, summer employment or his or her real first job—having a DWI on his or her criminal record may deter some employers from hiring him or her. Some employers see a DWI as a mark on the person’s character.

Remember, that a DWI is completely preventable. However, if you are a college student or prospective student who has been arrested and charged with drunk driving, the first thing you need to do is to make an appointment to meet with an experienced Dallas County DWI Defense Attorney. Only a skilled DWI Defense Attorney can make sure that your rights are protected and the charges against you are fully investigated. Dallas County DWI Defense Attorney Jack Pettit understands the impact that a DWI can have on a student’s future. As a former prosecutor, Jack Pettit knows what it takes to fight a DWI charge and win. Call the Law Office of Jack Pettit today at (214) 521-4567 to schedule a free and completely confidential consultation. Our office provides services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.

Texas Drunk Driving Campaign Targets Young Hispanic Men

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Driving while intoxicated or DWI is not just problematic, it is a real problem for many states, including Texas. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, (TxDOT) approximately every 20 minutes a person is injured or killed in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident in Texas. It is estimated that 1 in 3 Texas traffic-related fatalities is caused by drinking and driving.

One group that has made up a significant number of DWIs in recent years is Latinos or Hispanics. According to recent census data, Hispanics make up approximately 38 percent of the state’s population. In 2009, Hispanics represented more than 30 percent of all DWI driver fatalities in the state. As such, the TxDOT sponsors a state-wide campaign each year that focuses on raising awareness in the Hispanic community of the dangers of drinking and driving.

This year the TxDOT’s campaign’s target audience will be young Hispanic males. It is estimated that close to 50 percent of DWI accidents that occurred in Texas back in 2014 involving men between the ages of 17 and 34 were Hispanic males. These crashes were the cause of more than 600 serious injuries and approximately 275 deaths.

A 2010 report completed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) entitled “Special Report on Race/Ethnicity and Impaired Driving,” found that Hispanics as a group are less likely to believe that DWI is a safety problem. The report also discovered that Hispanics, among other groups, are less likely to believe that a person who has been drinking will actually be caught driving while intoxicated.

The goal of this year’s campaign is to increase awareness and save families the heartbreaking loss that is all too common with DWI. The slogan for the campaign will be “Drink. Drive. Got to Jail. De Veras.” The phrase “de veras” in English means “for real” and is commonly used by Hispanics when responding to an expression of disbelief. The seven week campaign will run through May 23, 2015. As part of the campaign, an interactive truck will be at different events that draw large crowds of young Hispanics, such as music festivals and car shows. The Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce and the Association of Hispanic Municipal Officials will be a part of the TxDOT’s campaign efforts as well.

The campaign will try to send the message to young Hispanic males not to drive if they have been drinking. Rather, they need to have a sober ride home or stay put. Emphasis will be put on having young people designate a sober driver before anyone starts drinking, rather than electing a “most” sober driver at the end of night. The campaign will also encourage young Hispanic men to take the keys away from anyone who is about to drive who has been drinking.

Being charged with driving while intoxicated or DWI is can negatively impact your life, so it is important take the charge seriously. Your first step once arrested should be to contact an experienced Dallas County DWI Defense Attorney. Only a highly skilled Texas Drunk Driving Campaign Targets Young Hispanic Men Dallas County DWI Defense Attorney can properly investigate the charges against you and challenge any mistakes made by the arresting officer. For more than 30 years, Attorney Jack Pettit has provided aggressive representation for clients in Dallas and throughout Dallas County. As a former prosecutor, Jack Pettit will explain your rights and make sure that all possible defenses are explored. Call the Law Office of Jack Pettit today at (214) 521-4567 to schedule a free confidential consultation. Our office provides services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.

Texas Man Accepts Plea Deal for Intoxication Manslaughter

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated or DWI is a serious crime in Texas. Even a first time DWI offense is considered to be a Class B misdemeanors and drivers convicted of the charge can face up to 180 days in jail and/or fines of up to $2,000. However, what may be a misdemeanor offense can quickly escalate to a felony offense if a person is injured or killed as the result of the DWI.

In Texas, if an intoxicated driver is the proximate cause of an accident in which a person (other than the intoxicated driver) suffers seriously bodily injury, the driver could be charged with intoxication assault, a third degree felony. If convicted of intoxication assault, a person could face between two and ten years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 and/or 160 to 600 hours of community service.

If a person is killed as the result of an automobile accident involving an intoxicated driver, the driver could be charged with intoxication manslaughter, also known as “vehicular manslaughter”, which is a second degree felony. A person convicted of intoxication manslaughter could face between two and twenty years in prison. It is important to remember that in order for a prosecutor to obtain a guilty verdict in an intoxication manslaughter case, he or she does not have to prove that the driver intended to kill anyone. Even a death that occurs due to the driver’s accident or mistake is no defense to the charge of intoxication manslaughter.

In March, a Texas man accepted a plea deal just before his trial on intoxication manslaughter was about to begin. The man faced five counts of intoxication manslaughter, one count for each of his five victims. The charges stemmed from a June 2014 accident. The man was driving his flat-bed truck the wrong way down a Texas freeway and slammed into a pickup truck. The man had a blood alcohol level of .23 or almost three times the legal limit. As a result of the accident, five of the six passengers in the truck were killed, including a mother, father, two girls, ages 11 and 12 and a 3 year old boy. The only survivor was a 15 year old girl. The Houston girl spent months in a coma with doctors thinking she may not survive. When the girl awoke, she was told she would probably never walk again. On the day of the man’s trial was set to begin, the now 16-year old addressed the court. While she relies on a wheelchair, she is now able to walk about 70 feet. But there are still scars on her face from that fatal day.

Had the man not accepted the plea deal, he could have faced a sentence of up to 110 years in prison. Now the man will have to serve 10 years for each of the five charges and will have to serve half of each sentence before he is parole eligible or approximately 25 years.

If you have been arrested and charged with drunk driving, the first thing you need to do is to make an appointment to meet with an experienced Dallas County DWI Defense Attorney. A skilled Texas DWI Defense Attorney will carefully review the facts of your case and examine your legal options with you. DWI is a serious crime and men and women who have been charged with same need an attorney who will take the charges just as seriously. As a former prosecutor, Jack Pettit has represented countless persons charged with DWI and knows what it takes to fight a charge of DWI and win. To have Attorney Jack Pettit review your case, contact the Law Office of Jack Pettit today at (214) 521-4567 to schedule a free and completely confidential consultation. Our office provides services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.