More than 20 people serving life in prison for DWI in Texas

More than 4,000 people are incarcerated in Texas for driving while intoxicated. Of those, 21 are serving a life sentence.

The first two DWI convictions are misdemeanors, and the third and fourth are felonies with offenders facing 2 to 10 years in prison. The fifth DWI conviction can cost someone life in prison. In these 21 cases, no one hurt or killed anyone.

"When it piles up like that, where it’s so many, then that’s a problem, and it’s just a matter of time before they take a life," said Emma Dugas with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"These cars cause lots and lots of really bad accidents, but the problem is that it didn’t happen in this case, that’s the crystal ball. We never know what’s going to happen, how somebody is going to behave in the future, but that’s the powerful argument is that if you don’t lock this person up that they’re going to hurt somebody," criminal defense attorney Betty Blackwell said.

Blackwell said this sentence is sometimes tougher than those for violent criminals.

"I’ve heard many times people say it’s just like holding a loaded gun. It’s very dangerous, it’s very irritating, it’s very irresponsible, but we look at our statutes of holding a gun while you’re drunk, that’s always a misdemeanor, almost never ever can that get anywhere, so no matter how many times you do that, can it get to a felony, but a car, there’s been a lot of push to enhance these penalties," Blackwell said.

The push comes from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

I think that justice is served when they have to remain in jail for life because it's becoming a, a just a problem that won't, won't stop," Dugas said.

Blackwell questioned if prison is the answer.


"To be smart on crime, you really need to figure out the people that you’re afraid of and use those really expensive prison beds for those people and not for the people you’re just mad at. That’s these people with long arrest records for DWI’s. We are extremely mad at them, but is it smart to use those beds?" Blackwell said.

She suggested other options using technology.

"We have incredible technology to lock people out of their cars when they have had too much to drink, the devices that they have to blow into devices that can turn the car off, can lock the car out. We have ankle monitors that can monitor whether they’re drinking, we can monitor them and say that they have to be at home and not at the bars, and we know where they are," Blackwell said.

Dugas said planning ahead could help people avoid being in these situations altogether.

"Drunk driving crashes don’t discriminate," Dugas said.