Each DWI case is unique in its own way. A first-offense DWI charge contains its own set of challenges for the accused driver that are different from those faced by drivers accused of second-, third-, or fourth-offense DWI. In one recent case originating in Jefferson Parish, a man convicted of misdemeanor first-offense DWI lost opportunities to challenge the way the state prosecuted his case because he did not follow the correct court procedures or observe the court rules, which led the Louisiana Court of Appeal to leave his conviction in place.
The case arose from Darrell Bourg, Sr.’s August 2010 arrest for DWI and driving carelessly. It was his first DWI offense. In Louisiana, first-offense DWI is a misdemeanor. That means several things for you if you’re facing such a charge. First, it means that the range of possible punishments is less severe than those for a felony crime. Second, it also means that you do not have a right to a demand a jury trial.
Bourg’s case went to trial in May 2014. At the end of the prosecution’s case, Bourg asked for a directed verdict of acquittal. The state, he argued, had no evidence that he was driving carelessly when the police stopped him, which meant that the police did not have probable cause to make the stop. The prosecution argued that defendants have no right to request a directed verdict in a trial by a judge and that the man should have raised his argument by another method. The trial judge rejected Bourg’s directed verdict request. The judge eventually found the driver guilty and sentenced him to 60 days without hard labor.
Almost a year and a half after the verdict, Bourg filed a motion for appeal. The appeals court refused even to hear the driver’s arguments, however. Bourg’s appeal had a procedural problem. In addition to not having a right to a jury trial, a person facing a first-offense DWI charge does not have a right of appeal. For a person who seeks to challenge what happened in his first-offense DWI trial, Louisiana law says that the correct legal procedure is an “application for a supervisory writ.” Louisiana’s rules for court procedure say that, if a person intends to challenge a misdemeanor criminal verdict, such as was the case in Bourg’s situation, the accused person must file a legal notice that announces his intent to apply for a supervisory writ within 30 days of the trial court’s ruling.
In Bourg’s case, he had not filed this notice. He had only filed a notice of appeal. Louisiana law allows courts to accept a notice of appeal and consider it as a notice of intent if the offense underlying the case does not carry a right of appeal. Therefore, his notice of appeal potentially could count as the required notice. However, the problem was that Bourg filed his notice almost 17 months after the verdict, well beyond the 30-day deadline required by the rules. In some cases, the court will allow a defendant to proceed despite having failed to file in a timely manner, but only if the defendant has a good reason for being late. In Bourg’s case, though, he offered no reasons at all for his lack of timeliness, so the appeals court refused to hear his arguments.
Every DWI case, whether the charge is misdemeanor first-offense DWI or a felony DWI matter with the possibility of a lengthy hard labor sentence, is a serious matter and should be viewed in that manner. Regardless of the charge you’re facing, if you’ve been accused of DWI, talk to the diligent Louisiana DWI attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our attorneys have many years of experience helping accused people and ensuring that, whether it’s a felony trial before a jury or a misdemeanor matter before a judge, you get a vigorously asserted defense.
For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.
More Blog Posts:
Louisiana Supreme Court Upholds Drunk Driver’s Hard Labor Sentence Even Though Jury Had Only Six Members, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, April 11, 2016
Louisiana Driver’s Plea was Valid Even Without Express Statement of Waived Rights Before Trial Judge, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Sept. 29, 2015