Defending yourself in a criminal matter in Louisiana, such as a DWI case, involves many parts. In addition to addressing the issue of guilt or innocence, there is also the aspect of sentencing. A pair of recent Louisiana Court of Appeal cases offer some useful insight into what must (and must not) go into a sentence for a DWI conviction.
In the first ruling, Timothy Hooter was arrested in February 2012 after a police officer spotted him driving a car with a license plate six years out of date and belonging to a 1992 Ford truck, not the 2001 Mitsubishi coupe Hooter was driving. In addition to having crossed the center line while driving, the driver, upon being stopped by police, had red eyes, slurred speech and smelled of alcohol. Faced with this evidence, Hooter ultimately pled guilty to drunk driving, fourth offense, and the trial court handed down a sentence of 12 years in jail and a $12,000 fine.
- Read more about DWI law in Louisiana.
Hooter challenged his sentence, arguing that, based upon his work history, completion of treatment and acquisition of a GED, the sentence was excessive. The appeals court upheld most of what the trial court ordered. The statute as it existed in 2012 allowed judges to hand down jail terms of 10 to 30 years for fourth DWI offenses, and suspending all, part or none of that term. The trial court’s order explaining the sentence clearly mentioned each of the mitigating and aggravating factors the judge considered in arriving at the sentence handed down. Because the term of 12 years, with no portion suspended, was within the range the statute allowed and the judge explained his reasons thoroughly, the jail term was permissible.
However, one element of the sentence did not survive. The 2012 statute gave trial courts much less discretion in setting fining, prescribing a mandatory amount of $5,000. As a result of this specific requirement, the $12,000 fine was excessive.
In the more recent case, Slidell police arrested Andrew Yorkison in the parking lot of a seafood restaurant. The driver was unsteady on his feet, slurred his speech and smelled of alcohol. Unlike Hooter, Yorkison elected to go to trial on his fourth-offense DWI case, and he lost. The judge sentenced the driver to ten years of hard labor. The driver contested his sentence by arguing that he suffered from alcoholism, that the trial court should have given him a sentence that focused on treatment, and by failing to do so, it had handed down an excessive sentence.
This argument did not prevail. The appeals court noted that the trial court, in giving Yorkison a 10-year jail term, handed down the shortest sentence available under the statute. The trial court, in sentencing Yorkison, was simply doing its job and following the sentencing framework established by the Legislature, whose job it was to balance the societal benefits of providing alcoholism treatment to drivers convicted of DWIs against the need to protect the public from the risk posed by a repeat DWI offender.
Challenging your DWI sentence can involve many different techniques. For example, if the trial court fails to consider mitigating factors that weigh in your favor, that may invalidate your sentence. Also, if the trial court issues a jail term or fine that is outside the range spelled out in the statute, that could also get your sentence thrown out. Regardless of the specifics, mounting a successful contest of your DWI sentence requires a detailed understanding of the law. For skilled and aggressive advocates to defend your interest, consult the Louisiana DWI/DUI attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our DWI attorneys have a long history of helping people facing difficulties like yours.
For your confidential consultation contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.
More Blog Posts:
Louisiana Court of Appeal Reduces Driver’s Sentence Because Trial Court Did Not Follow Statute, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Feb. 12, 2015
6 Month Prison Sentence for Misdemeanor First Offense Drunk Driving Conviction Not Excessive, Appeals Court Rules, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Aug. 20, 2014