Texas laws follow the “three strikes” policy, which means that your third felony conviction can result in a long prison sentence. What does this have to do with DWI? According to Texas law, your third DWI offense counts as a felony. Even worse, there is no statute of limitations on counting your previous DWI offenses against you. If you got your first DWI while driving home from your 21st birthday party in the 1980s and your second one several weeks later while driving home from your friend’s 21st birthday party, it is still a felony if, this year, you get pulled over for driving home drunk from your son’s graduation party. Texas has some of the harshest penalties for DWI of anywhere in the United States, and repeat offenders can and sometimes actually do get sentenced to life in prison for DWI. In Rose Ann Davidson v. The State of Texas, a woman sentenced to life imprisonment for multiple DWI convictions appealed her sentence as cruel and unusual punishment.
What is a Three Strikes Law?
Three strikes laws impose a mandatory minimum sentence, increasing the penalty depending on the defendant’s prior convictions. The third conviction carries a mandatory long prison sentence. Three strikes laws are often the reason for people convicted of non-violent crimes being sentenced to long prison terms, sometimes even life in prison. A famous example of three strikes laws gone awry is Leandro Andrade, who has been imprisoned in California since 1995 for stealing nine VHS tapes from a K-mart, serving a 50-year sentence.
Rose Ann Davidson’s Life Sentence for DWI
In 2008, a Texas court sentenced Rose Ann Davidson to life in prison. Her crime was driving under the influence of alcohol; she had had six DWIs since 1996 and had previously been incarcerated for DWI. She appealed the conviction on the grounds that life in prison for DWI is cruel and unusual punishment, which the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution forbids. The punishment seems even more disproportionate to the crime when one considers that Davidson never caused any injuries to anyone during any of the times she drove drunk. The appeals court ruled that the sentence did not amount to cruel and unusual punishment, and Davidson remains imprisoned. Meanwhile, Davidson and her lawyers argue that the three strikes laws that apply to DWI are simply punishing Davidson for her alcoholism. Texas DWI laws are out of step with the approach that Texas and other states are beginning to take toward drug and alcohol-related convictions. In Texas, first-time DWI offenders with no other criminal record can be required to complete addiction treatment in lieu of a punishment like jail time. Viewed in this light, Davidson’s conviction seems arbitrary. If she had been born 25 years later, she could be receiving treatment for her alcoholism instead of spending the rest of her life in prison.
Contact Madrid Law About Repeat DWI Offenses
If you have a history of DWI, it is all the more important to hire a good defense lawyer for your new DWI charges. Contact Madrid Law in Houston for a consultation.