Some Texans Calling For Crackdown On Drunk Drivers

After a Texas judge sentenced a 16 year-old boy who was convicted of killing four people while driving under the influence of alcohol to 10 years of probation on December 10, 2013, many people in the state clamored for a crackdown on drunk drivers. The Lieutenant Governor joined the chorus of those calling for harsher penalties, and charged the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice to look at instituting mandatory sentences for intoxication manslaughter cases.

10 year probation sentence

The 16 year-old boy pled guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault stemming from a drunk driving auto accident in June 2013 that resulted in the death of four people and injury to two others. His case received national attention because he argued that he should not go to jail because his parents' consistent history of using their wealth to bail him out of trouble in the past when he had run-ins with the law had prevented him from developing a sense of the serious consequences that could stem from his behavior. The media dubbed this argument the "affluenza" defense.

The judge in the case agreed with the boy, and decided the best way to remedy the matter was to sentence the boy to 10 years of probation with strict terms, long-term substance abuse treatment at an in-patient facility and no contact with his parents. If the boy violates the terms of his probation, he could be sent to prison for 10 years.

lt. gov. calls for tougher sentences

After the judge sentenced the boy, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst used the authority of his office to charge the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice to examine the matter of sentencing in both juvenile and adult intoxication manslaughter cases. He announced that "recent cases" suggested that justice was not effectively being served in these cases.

Many believe that the Lt. Gov. wants the legislature to pass mandatory minimum prison sentences for intoxication manslaughter convictions. Experts argue that removing judicial discretion and establishing mandatory minimum sentences is harmful to the public good, particularly in juvenile cases. Psychology shows that juveniles' brains are less developed than adults, meaning that their decision-making abilities are less honed and they are more likely to make impulsive decisions. Juveniles are also more capable of rehabilitation. Mandatory prison sentences for juveniles would be a step away from recent efforts in the state to reduce the number of juveniles in correctional facilities and use community-based treatment programs.

speak with an attorney

The call for tougher sentences for intoxication manslaughter illustrates how seriously Texas authorities take such crimes - and all crimes related to intoxicated driving. Those who are facing criminal charges stemming from drinking and driving should have someone looking out for their best interests and defending their rights. If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated, seek the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney who can help reduce the potential penalties you could receive.