Assistant District Attorney Facing DWI Charges in Travis County
Houston 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 Houston,
contact us at the Stornello Law Firm, P.C. Our Houston
criminal defense attorneys represent clients from all walks of life, and we are ready to
fight to defend your rights and your reputation.