According to KTSM, El Paso, Texas, police recently arrested a man for driving while intoxicated. The suspect was purportedly driving erratically before the police pulled him over; then, he abandoned his vehicle and led police on a foot chase. After he was caught, he allegedly had a breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .202—almost two-and-a-half times the legal limit (.08). The police booked the suspect for a “3rd or more” offense of “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) and evading arrest. Further, the man reportedly had previous convictions for DWIs and two outstanding warrants for other DWIs and evasions of arrest. From the perspective of a DWI Defense Specialist, it is extremely important to understand the facts at the root of each of these allegations, as well as the impact on potential penalties, in order to develop the strongest defense strategy.
The news report is unclear in terms of how many previous convictions the suspect had on his record. We also don't know what punishment the driver received for these convictions—if the driver had only been required to pay a fine or if he had served any jail time. If we were defense attorneys for the suspect, this is crucial information because, for those who have three or more DWI convictions, any subsequent DWI can be charged as a third-degree felony DWI, with a jail sentence of 2-10 years. Further, if the earlier convictions resulted in incarceration, then any later offense can be charged as a second-degree felony (with a sentence of up to 20 years). If it's a third DWI with two or more jail sentences, then it is an enhanced felony—with a possible sentence of 25 years-to-life.
Similarly, we would want more information on the charge of evading arrest. Evading arrest on foot is typically a Class A misdemeanor; however, it, too, can have enhanced penalties. The news report was unclear if the driver had an outstanding warrant for evading arrest, if he had previously been convicted of that crime, or if the warrant for evasion related to the other DWI warrant, or if it was a completely separate incident. This is important because if someone has a previous conviction of a subsequent evasion, prosecutors can charge them with a state jail felony.
Factually, there are also plenty of questions that need answering. For example, we would want to clarify the facts relating to the alleged escape—were the police only considering his abandoning the vehicle as part of the evasion, or did the charge also pertain to pulling over his vehicle? Additionally, with the alleged BAC of 0.20%, the suspect would have likely had extremely impaired function. He probably would have had difficulty standing on his own, so it seems unlikely that he would have been able to truly run away from the police.
The BAC itself is also worth further examination. According to the law, a BAC above 0.15% is considered the threshold for an extremely elevated blood alcohol level, and that, too, can increase penalties. With the defendant being alleged to have such an extremely high BAC, we would want to do a full analysis of the BAC test, equipment, methodology, and police records, to see if the BAC was really as high as the police were claiming.
You should take any DWI charge seriously, but if you are likely to have enhanced penalties at issue, it is even more important to hire a DWI specialist.
Houston attorney Doug Murphy is one of only two attorneys in the state of Texas who is Board Certified in both Criminal Law and DWI Defense. Year-after-year, he is heralded as being one of US News & World Report's Best Lawyers in America. If you face charges involving a DWI accident in Texas, contact Doug Murphy’s office today to discuss your case and begin working on your defense.