Most of us understand drunk driving is a serious offense that can result in the loss of a person’s license, fines, and even jail time. But could you really spend the rest of your life in prison for drunk driving? Absolutely. In fact, in Texas, you may even receive two life sentences for multiple driving under the influence (DUI) convictions.
Houston Man Sentenced to Life After 10th Conviction
In February 2015, a jury in Montgomery County, Texas, sentenced a defendant to two concurrent life terms after his 10th arrest for DUI. According to the Houston Chronicle, the 64-year-old defendant had DUI arrests dating back as far as 1981, mostly in Harris County. Seven of those arrests led to convictions. The defendant served at least two prison terms.
According to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office, the jury in the 10th case did not know the full extent of the defendant’s DUI record prior to the sentencing phase of the trial. All the jury knew prior to conviction was that the defendant had “at least two prior DWI convictions” and that was accused in this case of “threatening to retaliate” against the police officer who arrested him.
While life in prison may sound extreme even in cases of multiple DUI convictions, the case above is not unique in Texas. The Chronicle reported there are at least 33 Texas inmates serving a life sentence for DUI-related convictions. In 2013, for instance, a Hays County court sentenced a woman to life in prison following her sixth DUI charge. The woman had actually been released from jail—following her fifth charge—just before the sixth arrest.
Taking DUI/DWI Charges Seriously
Of course, most drunk driving cases will not send a person to prison for life. But even a single DUI charge can lead to jail time. In Texas, a first DUI conviction may result in a jail sentence of no more than 180 days (six months). A second conviction raises the maximum possible jail sentence to a full year. A third offense carries a minimum prison sentence of two years.
And one thing to keep in mind: Under Texas law, it does not matter how old a prior DUI conviction may be. So if you were convicted of a first DUI offense in 1981, like the defendant in the double-life sentence case above, and your second conviction does not occur until 2016, the fact that 35 years have elapsed will not get you a more lenient sentence from the judge.
That is why you should always take any DUI charge seriously. A Houston DWI attorney can apprise you of your rights in any criminal proceeding and ensure your interests are represented in court. And while no attorney can guarantee a favorable legal outcome, your chances are always much better if you have competent representation. Contact a Galveston DWI lawyer at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need to speak with an attorney about your situation.