The American Statesman in conjunction with KVUE published a story this week on the practice of giving occupational licenses to people accused of drunk driving. This, they seem to suggest, is a mockery of crime and punishment. While they stop short of making an editorial about it or suggesting the procedures change, their wording conveys a sense of displeasure about the system that allows for accused drunk drivers to get behind the wheel.
In Texas, you will have your license confiscated if you are arrested for DWI or if you refuse to give a breath test when pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. Yes, this means you are being punished before being convicted of a crime.
But, because judges understand a suspended license can stop people from getting to work, providing for family, and even showing up at court, they often agree to issue occupational licenses during these periods of suspension. According to the Statesman, these provisional licenses are rarely denied and judges are often lacking the whole story when it comes to the reasons a driver might need their license.
Like nearly everything else in the criminal courts, how a judge handles a request for an occupational license varies from courtroom to courtroom. One judge might require proof of employment or have drivers keep detailed mileage logs while driving on the license. Others simply take the defendant’s word for it.
The report itself states that even some judges question the ethics in suspending a license before a conviction and perhaps this is why many are so lenient in justifying the provisional licenses. While groups like MADD and others would likely just as soon lock all drunk drivers up and take away their driving privileges permanently, this isn’t reasonable nor is it likely.
While the risks of having a drunk driver on the road are very real, many of the laws designed to get tough on drunk drivers are way out of proportion for the crime at hand. Serious drunk drivers who are a threat to public safety should face penalties. But allowing average citizens who may show a one-time lapse in judgement, to still function in society needs to be a priority, too.
Some judges maintain a moderate and rational mind set when penalizing drunk drivers and hearing the criminal cases. This doesn’t mean, however, that you will get off easy when accused of drunk driving. As a matter of fact, Texas has some pretty harsh penalties for DWI and multiple offense DWI charges.
If you’re facing charges like these, wondering if you might qualify for an occupational license or just what kind of sentence you may face, you need the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer. Contact our offices today for a free consultation on your case and to discuss your options.