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When a Religious Leader Gets a DWI

 Posted on May 05, 2023 in Uncategorized

As a religious leader in the community, you undoubtedly face a great deal of pressure. Not just to hold your congregation together and give religious guidance but also to act as a pillar of the community. We hold our religious leaders like pastors, priests, and rabbis to impossibly high standards. Clergy make mistakes too. But if you make the mistake of driving after you've had too much to drink, you could face serious consequences beyond potential jail time and fines.

Fortunately, you don't have to handle a DWI charge on your own. With an expert in DWI Defense by your side, like attorney Doug Murphy, you'll have a better chance for a successful outcome. If you receive a conviction, a DWI can impact your professional future as a religious leader and devastate your reputation in the community. That's what the leader of a prominent Texas Baptist church recently discovered.

Texas Baptist Pastor Resigns

The lead teaching pastor at a prominent North Texas Baptist church resigned in March after a DWI arrest. The following week the church's elder board emailed a statement to the congregation noting that the pastor had resigned effective immediately and reporting, "We assure you that Drew was not fired and that no improprieties have occurred at TABC."

The email also contained a resignation from the pastor stating, "Over the last twelve months and more recently, it has become clear that there are things I need to work on personally, and I believe causes me to need a season of rest from the responsibilities of ministry." Two church elders filled in at the pulpit the Sunday after his arrest. Neither substitute mentioned the lead pastor's resignation.

The resignation came after police arrested the pastor for driving while intoxicated on March 3, 2023. He also faces charges of unlawfully carrying a weapon while driving intoxicated and DWI with a child under 15 in the car. He bonded out of Tarrant County Jail after paying $2,250 in fees.

DWI in Texas

When you receive a DWI in Texas, there are a host of aggravating circumstances that can result in additional charges, including possible felony charges, as the North Texas pastor recently found.

Getting a DWI in Texas

For your first DWI in Texas, you'll typically face a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a $3,000 fine, an additional mandatory $3,000 administrative fine, and a suspended license.A second DWI is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by six days to 12 months in jail, a $4,000 court-imposed fine, and a mandatory $3,000 administrative fine. For your second DWI in 36 months, the administrative fine increases to $4,500.

However, a third DWI in Texas is a state jail felony. You'll face two to ten years in prison for a conviction, up to $10,000 in court-imposed fines, additional administrative fines, a suspended license, and community service. You will also have a felony conviction on your record.

Felony DWI Charges in Texas

You can face a felony DWI in Texas if you have multiple prior DWI convictions or your DWI results in a crash that seriously injures or kills someone. You can also face a felony charge if you are arrested for DWI with a child under 15 in the car. You can face a DWI with a child passenger charge if you:

  1. the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place; and
  2. the vehicle being operated by the person is occupied by a passenger who is younger than 15 years of age.

See Tex. Pen. Code. § 49.045 (2003). DWI with a child passenger is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. You'll face this charge in addition to a DWI charge.

Carrying a Weapon While DWI

In Texas, the law prohibits you from carrying or using a weapon while intoxicated. If you have a concealed carry permit, the charge is called "unlawful carry of a handgun." Unlawfully carrying a handgun is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. You could also lose your carry permit. If you don't have a permit, you could face "unlawful carry of a weapon" charges. Unlawfully carrying a handgun in Texas is also a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail and a $4,000 fine.

Career Repercussions for a DWI Conviction

While the potential jail time, fines, and other penalties associated with a DWI can be serious in Texas, the most serious damage can be the destruction of your career. For those in leadership positions in the community, particularly within a church, even the appearance of impropriety can devastate your personal and professional reputation. That's why you need an expert in DWI defense and criminal defense law aggressively representing you from the beginning.

You Need an Expert in Texas DWI Defense

If you are a leader in your church facing a DWI charge, the consequences can be more serious than you can foresee. But you don't have to handle this burden alone. An expert in DWI defense can protect your rights and advise you of your options immediately. Attorney Doug Murphy is a Texas Board Certified expert in Criminal Defense Law and DWI Defense, making him well-placed to represent Texans with complex DWI and other criminal charges. U.S. News and World Report's Best Lawyers in America also recently named Doug a "Lawyer of the Year" in Houston for DWI defense.

Doug and the experienced team at the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. have been guiding Texans through DWI cases for decades, and they can help you too. With experience on both sides of the aisle, prosecutors and defense counsel understand how to develop a robust defense, negotiate aggressively with prosecutors, and, if necessary, zealously defend you in court. Don't let your career in the church slip away. Find out why the Houston media calls Doug "the drinking driver's best friend." Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today at 713-229-8333 or contact them online to schedule your consultation.

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