Can a car be a deadly weapon in a DWI case?

A recent decision out of the Beaumont Court of Appeals addressed the question of whether a car can be a deadly weapon in a DWI case. The State's argument was that the defendant's car crossed the center line, which could have endangered  others. Fortunately there wasn't much traffic, so he didn't actually put anyone in danger. 

The argument can be made that any time you drive when you're intoxicated your car becomes a deadly weapon. The potential is there to be involved in a wreck, which could kill or injure others; that's why we have DWI laws. While that argument makes sense, the Court recognized that the legislature didn't mandate that a car driven by an intoxicated driver is a deadly weapon. Instead, there must be something more than a potential for danger; you actually have to put someone in danger.

A deadly weapon finding impacts the amount of time you will have to serve if sentenced to prison. For most offenses you will eligible for parole when the actual time served, plus good conduct time, equals 25% of the sentenced imposed. If you have a 10 year sentence, you will eligible when you accumulate 2 1/2 years. Depending on your behavior in prison, you might be eligible for parole far earlier than 2 1/2 years.

With a deadly weapon you don't get to use good conduct time when calculatiing parole eligibility. More importantly, you have to do 1/2 of the sentence before you become eligible. That means that for a 10 year sentence you would have to serve at least 5.

The defendant dodged a bullet in this case. Depending on the facts, other defendants may not be so lucky. That is more reason why you need a lawyer with experience in handling DWI cases.

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