DWI Offender Wins Appeal Against State of Texas
A Texas appellate court recently ruled in favor of a man who argued that the state punished him for having multiple driving while intoxicated convictions without proving his previous conviction. In Oliva v. The State of Texas, the appeals court overturned a lower court decision to convict the defendant of a Class A misdemeanor for DWI, saying it should have been a Class B misdemeanor conviction. According to Texas law:
- A first-time DWI offense is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of $2,000.
- A second-time DWI offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $4,000.
The case addressed how a prior DWI conviction must be presented when a subsequent DWI charge is made.
According to the written decision, police had charged the defendant with a DWI in May 2015, while also alleging he had a previous DWI conviction. The defendant pled not guilty, and the case went to trial. During the trial, prosecutors did not attempt to prove or show evidence of the defendant’s previous conviction. After the jury found the defendant guilty of the May 2015 charge, prosecutors presented the evidence of the previous DWI conviction during the punishment hearing. Because of the new evidence, the defendant was convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. The defendant appealed the decision, saying that the state had not proven his previous DWI conviction during the trial.
The appeal’s argument concerned whether a prior DWI conviction enhances new DWI charges or only the punishment. In siding with the defendant, the court stated:
- Having a prior DWI conviction is part of a Class A misdemeanor charge for a second DWI offense, not an aggravating factor to be considered in a punishment.
- During the guilt/innocence portion of the trial, the prosecutors only argued that the defendant was guilty of the most recent DWI offense.
- Because the prosecution did not prove that the defendant was guilty of multiple DWI offenses, the defendant can only be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor.
What It Means
The decision affirms that state prosecutors cannot skip steps if they want you convicted for a DWI offense. Any previous convictions that they want to use against you need to be proven in court. Do not let prosecutors abuse your rights. Contact a San Antonio DWI defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Samuel H. Lock to represent you in your DWI case. Schedule a free appointment by calling 210-226-0965.