Drivers accused of a DWI in Houston typically learn two important things during their initial consultation with a DWI defense attorney. The first is that a DWI charge carries steep maximum penalties. The second is that in many cases, it is possible to avoid serving anything close to the maximum penalties if convicted. A Brazos County man recently learned that leniency is never guaranteed.
On January 8, 2020, the Brazos County District Attorney's Office announced a guilty plea for DWI was entered by 58-year-old Charles Dutcher. Under the terms of the plea bargain, the court sentenced Dutcher to 25 years in state prison. This DWI conviction marks Dutcher's 6th DWI arrest over the course of his life. His arrests stretch back to 1995, with his most recent DWI conviction coming in 2011.
The arrest that led to this guilty plea stemmed from a brief police chase in April 2017. According to the police report, Brazos County sheriff's deputies noticed Dutcher driving with a defective tail light. The report reflects that Dutcher fled after the deputies attempted to pull him over. Dutcher reportedly accelerated to more than 100 miles per hour, even driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid capture. Dutcher ran several stop signs before law enforcement cornered him on a dead-end road. The police report went on to say that the deputies subdued him by force after he refused to cooperate.
In addition to a charge of DWI with two prior convictions, Dutcher also faced charges of evading arrest with a motor vehicle. Both charges are felonies.
The Penalties for a 6th DWI
While some of Dutcher's DWI convictions were from decades ago, Texas law counts every conviction during your lifetime. Some states enact a “lookback period,” which means they only consider convictions from a certain time frame when determining the severity of a DWI charge. Texas does not have a lookback period.
The sentencing range is the same for any DWI with two or more prior convictions. According to state law, the prison sentence for a third or subsequent DWI is capped at 10 years. However, there are some important factors that could extend that sentence. In this case, Mr. Dutcher had previously served two prison sentences for DWI convictions in the past. With two prior trips to prison for DWI, the maximum penalty is 25 years.
In other words, Mr. Dutcher pleaded guilty and still received the maximum sentence. Keep in mind, he was also sentenced 25 years for evading arrest in a motor vehicle, and the judge agreed those sentences would run at the same time.
Discuss Your Options with a Board Certified Houston DWI Attorney
Ultimately, Dutcher and his legal team appear to have decided a plea bargain was in his best interest. However, accepting a plea agreement can often backfire in a Houston DWI case. While a plea agreement might keep you out of jail, the prosecutor cannot prevent a DWI conviction from costing you your job or even custody of your children or being potentially used against you down the road, just as in Mr. Dutcher's case.
Attorney Doug Murphy has learned throughout his career that it is often better to fight a DWI charge. This approach has paid off for his clients – given his track record of acquittals. To learn how you might fight back against a DWI arrest in Houston or throughout Texas, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away.