Can I Face Multiple Prison Terms for a Single DWI Accident?

A DWI accident can lead to felony charges of intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter if someone else is injured or killed, respectively, as a result of drunk driving. The penalties for either offense carry significantly higher penalties that first-time DWIs. In the case of intoxicated assault, a third-degree felony, the defendant may be sentenced to 10 years in prison, while intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony, can send someone to jail for up to 20 years.

Houston Court Upholds 46-Year Sentence in Fatal 2015 DWI Accident

A critical thing to understand, however, is that if multiple people are injured or killed in the same DWI accident, the driver can (and will) be charged with separate offenses for each victim. If convicted, this means the driver faces multiple consecutive prison sentences. And although the court has the discretion to sentence a defendant concurrently–that is, the driver would serve a single prison term that covers all convictions–it is not obliged to do so.

A recent decision by a state appeals court here in Houston offers a useful illustration of this principle. This case arises from a tragic January 2015 DWI accident on the North Loop. The defendant was driving the wrong way and collided with another vehicle containing three women. The other driver was seriously injured but survived. Unfortunately, her two passengers died.

Police investigation subsequently determined the defendant had a blood-alcohol level that was nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Harris County prosecutors charged the defendant with two counts of intoxication manslaughter and one count of intoxication assault. The defendant agreed to plead guilty to those charges, as well as a “deadly weapon” enhancement to each count–the deadly weapon in this case being the defendant’s car.

The defendant’s plea did not include a recommended sentence. The prosecution moved to sentence the defendant consecutively. The defendant’s attorney objected, but following a formal sentencing hearing, the judge sided with the prosecution. The defendant received 18-year prison terms for each of the two intoxication manslaughter charges, and a separate 10-year term for the intoxication assault. Altogether, this means the defendant will spend 46 years in prison.

On appeal, the defendant argued his attorney failed to properly advise him of the possibility of consecutive sentencing when agreed to plead guilty. The Texas 14th District Court of Appeals rejected that claim. To the contrary, the trial transcript clearly showed the judge advised the defendant that the state had asked for consecutive sentencing. At the time, the defendant said he understood. When the defendant’s attorney objected, it was to indicate he would contest the state’s request at sentencing; it was not an attempt to misinform the defendant as to the legality of the state’s actions.

Speak With a Houston DWI Accident Attorney Today

Houston DWI Attorney Tad NelsonHouston prosecutors rarely hesitate to “throw the book” at a defendant charged with injuring or killing someone in the course of drunk driving. This is why you need to work with an experienced Houston DWI accident lawyer who understands the legal system inside-and-out and can guide you through every step of the legal process.

Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you have been charged with DWI or any other serious crime and need immediate assistance.

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