In the wee hours of the morning of October 17, 2020, police arrested Fort Worth City Council Member Cary Moon, alleging that the council member was driving while intoxicated (DWI). In a statement, Moon said, “Thank you to those who have offered support. At this time, we are not able to discuss details of the case. I will be responsible for my actions and own up to any personal or legal failures.” Both the arrest and Moon's comment highlight interesting ways that a DWI could impact someone running for, or currently holding, public office. Let's discuss a couple of these issues.
DWI Impacts Professional Licensing
Many individuals who hold elected office do so on the basis of their professional accomplishments. However, DWIs can cost someone their professional license in a number of fields—such as accounting, real estate, and the practice of medicine. Furthermore, for fields based on practitioners' reputation for truth, such as the practice of law, a license can be pulled for issues of character, and DWI can be used in this context as well.
While the loss of a license could hurt a candidate's image, a DWI conviction might even limit the types of offices a candidate could pursue, since DWIs can also impact eligibility for security clearances.
DWIs are public record; candidates are of public interest
In Moon's statement, he wouldn't publicly address the facts of his case. That was a smart decision. While reporters and potential voters would love more details, Moon's attorney should be the one to decide what information should and should not be shared with the public. In a legal proceeding, there are standards of proof that must be met, the opportunity to refute the evidence, and so on. There are no such requirements in the court of public opinion. Yet a defendant's public statement could be used as evidence against them—if not to prove the allegations outright, at least to impeach their credibility.
While even the allegation of a DWI might hurt a candidate—from embarrassment if nothing else—all is not automatically lost, for those with a DWI on their record and still aspire to public service. On the contrary, it's important to remember that a DWI charge is not a conviction. People can and do win in a DWI court. Even a conviction may still be removed from one's record, given the specific circumstance.
But the first step is to hire a DWI specialist to represent you.
With 20 years of experience, Houston attorney Doug Murphy is one of only two attorneys in the entire state of Texas who is Board Certified in both Criminal Law and DWI Defense. Annually heralded as one of the Best Lawyers in America by US News , he is a national expert on DWI litigation, and he regularly teaches other attorneys how to handle these cases. If you are facing DWI charges in Texas, contact Doug Murphy’s office today to discuss your case and begin working on your defense.