One of the most unsettling DWI cases of the last few years, which fortunately is not binding in Texas, may one day have a significant impact on subsequent DWIs.
In Commonwealth v. Diehl, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed prosecutors to use the defendant’s prior DWI as evidence that he disregarded the risks inherent in drinking and driving. Again, this case is not binding in Texas, because it comes from another state and also because it relies on a specific Pennsylvania procedural rule that has no parallel in the Lone Star State. But if the idea catches on, second DWI prosecutions could be even harder to defend.
Jurors are supposed to decide each case only on the facts of that case and not based on the defendant’s prior conduct, but jurors are people too, and they sometimes do not act in the way they are supposed to act.
Texas law in this area is quite well-settled. First off, the Lone Star State has a ten-year lookback period, so if the defendant was convicted of DWI or any similar offense in Texas or any other state within the last decade, charges move up from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor. The maximums are:
- $4,000 fine
- One year in jail (30 day minimum)
- Two year license suspension (minimum 180 days)
If the prior conviction is from out of state, an attorney must take a good look at the calendar, because many states conduct their trials and sentencing hearings several months apart.
Although DWI-2 is normally a probation-eligible offense, a conviction almost always means some jail time, because of the thirty-day minimum. Most counties have alternative programs available for shorter sentences like this one, such as work release or weekends.
Many of the more serious DWI consequences are not in the Penal Code. The biggest cost may be higher auto insurance rates. An SR-22, which almost all DWI defendants must obtain, will increase auto insurance premiums by about 95 percent. Even after three years, when drivers can shop around to get lower coverage, their premiums may still be as much as 67 percent higher than they would be otherwise.
Furthermore, if the defendant receives probation, there are normally monitoring fees, monthly check-ins, community service obligations, and other items which cost time and/or money.
Reach Out to an Experienced Attorney
A second DWI has significant adverse consequences. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Houston, contact the Law Office of Jim Medley. Mr. Medley is a former police officer who knows the system.