Assistant District Attorney Facing DWI Charges in Travis County
The Sugar Land Chronicle recently reported on the fact that an Assistant District Attorney ("ADA") for the Travis County District Attorney's Office has been arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). According to the Austin police officer who carried out the arrest, the prosecutor appeared to be drunk. The arrest was not a result of a DWI checkpoint or a routine traffic stop.
On the contrary, law enforcement were called to the scene of a collision involving the defendant in the case. The 33-year-old ADA is reported to have been involved in a crash at around 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon, when his Land Rover struck a Mini Cooper which had come to a stop. The police report states that the defendant displayed several signs of intoxication during the roadside investigation, including:
- Strong smell of alcohol
- Slurred speech
- Swaying while standing
- Fumbled while searching for his insurance card
- Repeatedly walked away while the officer was speaking with him
The report also included allegations that the suspect was lying, although there is no specific information concerning exactly what he was lying about.
Don't Take the Roadside Sobriety Tests
Next, the defendant made a smart decision, which was to refuse to take a roadside breath test. The Austin Police Department uses preliminary alcohol screening devices for conducting breath tests, and these devices have been repeatedly proven to be far less than perfectly accurate. Such tests can easily result in a false positive that may be used to support a conviction in court.
Because the suspect refused the PAS test, however, the officers obtained a search warrant which they then used to compel him to submit to a blood draw, which provided evidence that the driver's blood alcohol concentration was over the legal limit of .08%. Blood tests are generally more reliable that roadside breath tests, though it is possible to contest the results of such tests in some cases.
Travis Count D.A.'s Office Wracked by Drunk Driving Scandals
As scandalous as the recent arrest may be for the Travis County District Attorney's Office, it is not the first mark against the office's credibility. In the spring of this year, Travis County D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested and charged with DWI. Her case resulted in a conviction, after which she was sentenced to serve 45 days in jail. She served only half of that sentence before being released for good behavior, though she continues to face opposition to staying in office. Furthermore, Governor Perry has vetoed a bill that would have provided state funding for her office's Public Integrity Unit, effectively making a vote of no-confidence against Lehmberg's own integrity.
Will the Assistant D.A. receive the full force of the prosecution?
The Assistant District Attorney who is the suspect in the current case has not previously been convicted of driving while intoxicated, but he still faces tough penalties if found guilty. A first-time DWI in Texas is punishable by as much as $2,000 in fines, between 3 and 180 days in jail, and a driver's license suspension lasting for up to a year, in addition to further license fees. He will be prosecuted by colleagues from his own office, since the arrest took place within Travis County. Whether the prosecutor in this case will take as tough an approach as he or she would in a case against a private citizen, however, remains to be seen.
Given the scandal caused by this case and that of the District Attorney, the office may feel motivated to pursue a conviction with the maximum penalties available under law in order to improve their tarnished image by demonstrating to the public that they are committed to holding those within their own ranks accountable. If you have been arrested for DWI in Greater Sugar Land, contact us at the Stornello Law Firm, P.C. Our Sugar Land criminal defense attorneys represent clients from all walks of life, and we are ready to fight to defend your rights and your reputation.