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Woman Faces Life Sentence for Third Felony DUI Conviction

A Texas woman is facing life in prison after a state appeals court affirmed the 2012 sentence imposed under the state's habitual offender provisions, for a third felony drunk driving conviction.

According to an article in the Austin-American Statesman, the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin found that a life sentence for a third felony driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense was not cruel and unusual punishment, which the defense had claimed when filing an appeal of a 2012 case out of Hays County. In appealing the original verdict, the defense had argued that the life sentence violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the grounds that it was "grossly disproportionate" to the offense.

The appeal was denied unanimously by a three-judge panel at the appeals court on the basis that the defendant's attorney had failed to object to the punishment during the trial, thus failing to preserve the issue for an appeal. The court also found that even with a proper objection, the defendant's sentence was appropriate because her multiple DWI arrests showed a pattern that endangered her life and the lives of others.

The court's opinion included the following statement: "It is well established that a sentence of life imprisonment or of similar length is not grossly disproportionate to a felony offense that is committed by a habitual offender, even when the felony is not inherently violent in nature."

Records show that the defendant in this case has a total of 5 previous DWI convictions since 2002, with 3 since 2008, which qualifies her as a habitual offender under Texas law. Her most recent arrest and conviction were based on an incident where she was allegedly changing lanes erratically while driving 40 mph on Interstate 35, where the speed limit is 70 mph.

Driving under the influence (DUI), or DWI as it is called in Texas, is a criminal offense that can carry extremely harsh penalties. Like Texas, California implements enhanced sentencing for habitual offenders, people who are convicted of more than one DUI-related offense within a certain amount of time. Higher fines, longer terms of imprisonment and permanent license revocation may occur if a defendant is convicted of 2, 3, 4 or more DUIs within a 10-year time period.

Challenging Multiple DUI Offenses

Although a driver who is facing a second, third or subsequent DUI is already at a disadvantage because a prior conviction may convince law enforcement and a judge or jury of a propensity to commit such an offense – though the current offense would have to be proven beyond all doubt as in any criminal case.

At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, we recognize the tenacity with which multiple DUI charges must be fought in order to seek a dismissal, acquittal or reduction of charges on a client's behalf. With our experience in DUI defense, we can devise workable strategies that offer our clients the best possible opportunity at positive outcomes. Sometimes this may even include challenging the validity of prior convictions.

For additional information and guidance related to a particular case, please call an Orange County DUI lawyer at our offices.