How a 3rd DWI Conviction Could Imprison You For Life

A drunk driving charge will escalate based on the driver’s prior convictions for similar offenses. In Texas, a third DWI offense is a third-degree felony. This means that in the worst case scenario, a driver faces 10 years in a state prison. And if a defendant has at least two prior felony convictions, the prosecution can ask a jury to label them a “habitual offender”–which can ratchet up the DWI sentence to possible life imprisonment.

If you think this is an exaggeration, here’s a recent case from right here in Galveston that demonstrates just how serious a third DWI charge can be. In this case, Hill v. State, a police officer observed a driver–the defendant–strike a concrete pillar with his truck. The officer approached the defendant. The officer later testified he smelled alcohol on the defendant’s breath. Based on this and other signs of intoxication, the officer administered field sobriety tests, which ultimately led to the defendant’s DWI arrest.

Prosecutors later discovered the defendant had prior DWI convictions in 1994, 1998, 2007, and 2012. This meant he would be charged with third-degree felony DWI. And since the 2007 and 2012 convictions were felonies, prosecutors also sought a “habitual offender” enhancement.

A jury convicted the defendant of this most recent DWI. It also found the habitual offender enhancement applied. The court ultimately sentenced the defendant to 35 years in prison.

On appeal, the defendant raised two issues. First, he argued the police failed to obtain a proper warrant before testing his blood following his arrest. Second, he said the prosecution failed to introduce sufficient evidence of his prior DWI convictions to the jury. The Texas 14th District Court of Appeals rejected both arguments and affirmed the defendant’s conviction and sentence.

With respect to the blood test, one of the defendant’s objections was that 105 days passed between the time his blood sample was taken and when the forensic analysis was actually performed. The defense argued that this violated the three-day deadline stated in the original search warrant. But as the appellate court explained, the three-day deadline only applies to when the blood sample is taken, not when it is tested. Since the blood draw was performed within three days, the subsequent analysis was admissible as evidence.

As to the evidence of the defendant’s prior DWI convictions, the defendant said the only information the jury received regarding his 1994 and 1998 convictions were orders granting him probation. The defendant insisted that did not actually prove his convictions beyond a reasonable doubt. The 14th District disagreed. It noted the prosecution only needed to provide evidence of a “final conviction,” and a conviction is considered final even when it only results in probation.

Arrested for DWI in Houston, TX?

Talk with a Drunk Driving Lawyer Today

If you have any prior DWI or felony conviction on your record, it will make any subsequent drunk driving arrest far more consequential to your life and liberty. That is why it is important to work with a qualified Houston attorney for third offense DWI cases. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need representation.