Driving while intoxicated (DWI), more commonly referred to simply as drunk driving, is an incredibly dangerous criminal offense precisely because literally anybody is capable of committing the crime. People of all ages and various sizes are arrested every day in Texas on DWI charges, and this year has seen a shocking number of stories involving police officers actually being the ones charged with DWI.
On January 22, 2019, KRLD-AM reported that a 17-year-veteran of the Dallas Police force was on administrative leave after being arrested for DWI. Dallas Police Senior Corporal Kevin Lewis was off-duty at the time, but had his two children in the car at the time of his arrest. A witness told police the car Masters was driving on Wintergreen Road and Highway 67 was swerving and nearly hit a wall.
On May 5, 2020, CBSDFW.com reported that Dallas Senior Corporal Sean Mock was arrested Monday and charged with DWI at around 2:15 a.m. when he was on-duty and sitting in a parked marked squad car. He had been with the department since July 2009 and was assigned to the Northwest Patrol Division but was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an Internal Affairs administrative investigation.
On August 1, 2020, MyTexasDaily.com reported that a 32-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department was arrested when 57-year-old Dallas Police Department Sergeant James Bristo was arrested by the Irving Police Department and charged with DWI and unlawful carrying of a weapon. He had been on the department since August 1988 and was assigned to the South Central Division, but the Dallas Police Department said he was on administrative leave pending the outcome of an Internal Affairs administrative investigation.
A 2013 Bowling Green State University study stated that news searches identified 782 cases in which police officers were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), involving the arrests of 750 sworn officers employed by 511 nonfederal state and local law enforcement agencies located in 406 counties and independent cities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. DUI was the most serious offense charged against arrested officers in 665, or 85.0 percent, of the cases.
Of the cases in which case disposition was known, 80.4 percent resulted in some type of criminal conviction, although criminal convictions were “significantly less likely in cases where the arrested officer was reassigned, suggesting that courts may interpret reassignment as ‘punishment enough.’” The study also stated that arrested officers’ refusal to submit to a breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test also “significantly reduced the likelihood of conviction, presumably because these cases lacked the necessary evidence.”
In June 2016, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that a nationwide review of law enforcement officers who have been arrested determined that the most frequent charges that were filed were for assaults and impaired driving. Two Bowling Green State University instructors surveyed 6,724 arrest cases for 5,545 sworn officers from 2005 to 2011 and found that 94.5 percent of defendants were men and 58.5 percent were off duty at the time.
Simple or aggravated assaults were the most serious offense in 21.5 percent of cases. DUI accounted for 12.5 percent of the arrests. Southern states accounted for 43.2 percent of cases, while 20.5 percent were in the Midwest.
The stories and statistics demonstrate that nobody is completely immune to possible DWI charges. Even police officers can occasionally make poor decisions that lead to arrests, and they must answer to the same criminal charges that affect all people who decide to drive drunk.
The three Dallas cases this year of officers arrested for DWI were eye-opening because two of the three officers likely faced additional criminal charges besides their underlying DWI offenses. This is true in many DWI cases as several alleged DWI offenders can be charged with other crimes in addition to their DWI charges.
For example, Dallas Police Senior Corporal Lewis having his two children in the car opens him up to the possibility of being charged with DWI with a child passenger. Whereas a first DWI in Texas is usually a Class B misdemeanor, DWI with a child passenger is a state jail felony.
A Class B misdemeanor only carries a possible punishment of up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000, but a state jail felony will involve a possible punishment of up to two years in state jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Enhanced DWI offenses also carry the threat of additional punishments such as the possible mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device in all vehicles owned or operated by the alleged offender.
The unlawful carrying of a weapon charge against Dallas Police Department Sergeant Bristo is typically a Class A misdemeanor, but the offense can be a third-degree felony if the offense is committed on any premises licensed or issued a permit by this state for the sale of alcoholic beverages. Again, weapons crimes represent another common kind of additional criminal charge because many alleged offenders will have their motor vehicles searched at the times of their arrests and any weapons or firearms police find are sure to be used against people.
Many other kinds of criminal charges can be filed against people charged with DWI in addition to their drunk driving charges. Several kinds of drug charges can also be especially common because again, police searches often turn up drugs inside the vehicles being pulled over, and possession of most drugs is prohibited under Texas state law.
Any person who has been arrested for DWI will usually be nervous about having to go to court to present their case, and the challenge can become even greater when the same person knows there are other criminal charges they are answering to besides just the DWI charge. You will want to be sure you are working with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you find yourself arrested for DWI and accused of additional crimes besides driving drunk.
If you were arrested for DWI in Dallas but were also charged with another crime in relation to your arrest, do not delay in seeking legal counsel for yourself. The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy prides itself on aggressively fighting DWI charges for clients throughout the greater Dallas area and we can work to help you achieve the most favorable outcome possible so you are not haunted by one poor decision for the remainder of your life.
Our firm also handles all kinds of criminal defense cases, from drug possession to weapons offenses to various traffic crimes. Call (972) 233-5700 or contact us online right one to receive a free consultation that will let us review your case and begin exploring your legal options with you.