Texas Upholds Life Imprisonment for DUI 3rd Offense
A Texas appellate court recently affirmed a sentence of life imprisonment of a third offense DUI charge. The court rejected the argument that such an excessive sentence amounts to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Here in Wisconsin, as in most states, a third offense DUI is a misdemeanor, punishable by no more than one year in jail, and that year is almost always served in a work-release or home detention setting.
It’s hard to fathom the notion that a life sentence for a third offense DUI is not cruel and unusual. Perhaps the Texas court simply felt that cruelty is justified. I’m against driving while intoxicated. It is way out of proportion, however, to treat it like murder or rape.
This is not just a Texas issue, either. Texas is, of course, a big state, with many large urban areas. People from all over the world travel to Texas for business, pleasure and academia. Many people regularly go to Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and so on. Some of these people may have two prior DUI convictions.
Can you imagine traveling to Texas with two old DUI convictions from years ago, and finding yourself facing sentence of life imprisonment in a Texas prison?
It seems as though every person who enters a guilty plea to a second offense DUI ought to be warned that in many states a third offense is a felony, and to stay away from Texas. Notice that I did NOT say, stay sober in Texas; because the sad truth is that innocent people do, occasionally, get convicted of DUI.
In light of what is going on, I would be very, very hesitant to simply plead guilty to a first or second offense DUI. If you do find yourself in trouble when visiting the lone star state protect your rights and call an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney immediately.