Some DWI Offenders Sentenced to Life in Prison

Posted on Mar 11, 2015 in DUI/DWI

Being sentenced to prison for life is a penalty usually associated with serious violent crimes, like murder.  In some cases, however, defendants who have never caused anyone physical harm have been sentenced to life in prison for a nonviolent crime: drunk driving.

The Houston Chronicle recently reported on one 64-year-old man who will spend the rest of his life behind bars after he was convicted of driving drunk with nine prior arrests on his record for similar offenses.  The man, who was also charged with making a threat of retaliation against a law enforcement officer, was actually sentenced to two life terms in prison, which will run concurrently.

Although it is unusual for a drunk driving charge to lead to life in prison, this recent case is not the only time someone has been sentenced to spend the rest of his days behind bars because of a DUI or DWI. WCAX also reported on another man charged as a habitual offender who faced a life sentence.

DWI Sentencing in New Orleans

Laws on whether a person can get life in prison for drunk driving vary significantly by state. In Louisiana, the maximum penalty for a fourth drunk driving offense is up to 30 years of incarceration. However, Louisiana does have a habitual offender law, and other jurisdictions have used their habitual offender laws to send repeat drunk drivers to jail for good.  A New Orleans DWI defense attorney at Bloom Legal can help defendants understand the potential penalties they could be at risk of facing if they are charged with driving drunk.

When drunk driving offenders are sentenced to spend life behind bars, this is often justified based on “community safety.”  The District Attorney prosecuting the Texas man, for example, believes that intoxicated drivers are one of the most significant threats to public safety. The DA has pursued aggressive prosecution of offenders based on this belief, and the result is that the 64-year old man is actually the fourth to get a life sentence for driving drunk.

A DWI Defense Attorney in New Orleans Should be Consulted for Help

The problem with putting away drunk driving defendants for life is that the safety of the community needs to be balanced against the rights of people who allegedly commit offenses. Punishment for a crime should be fair and reasonable given the nature of the offense, and there are many people who don’t believe it is appropriate to jail someone for life for a non-violent offense.

This is especially true since many people who are habitual drunk drivers tend to have an addiction to alcohol and treating this addiction may be a far better approach than just giving up and locking the offender away for good.

While Louisiana drunk drivers don’t have the same high risk as Texans of ending up with life in prison because of driving impaired, there are still harsh penalties in the state for a DWI. If you are accused of violating the law and driving drunk, contact a DWI defense attorney in New Orleans at Bloom Legal for help defending your rights.

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