Texas Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Habitual DWI

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.


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