On DUI / DWI Blogging: No Need to Overstate Your Case

You can click the topics and tags in this blog to see my various thoughts on the over-punishment of DWI convictions in Texas. For ‘just a class B misdemeanor’ it’s inarguably the most penal of anything else in that category in the Penal Code.

And in general that’s a fair and relevant subject for DWI bloggers to write about.

Near the top of my list of DWI blogs on my RSS reader is Lawrence Taylor’s granddaddy-of-em-all DWI blog, simply titled “DUI Blog”. (Those Californians call it D-U-I.) Taylor’s blog is aptly subtitled “Bad Drunk Driving Laws, False Evidence and a Fading Constitution”.

Taylor always does a great job of bringing us the latest and greatest in ridiculous DWI/DUI prosecution moments. See for example his recent post: DUI  - While Walking a Bicycle.

And so with great anticipation I click on an even newer post titled “First DUI = West Point Expulsion + 1 year in Prison”. Here are his intro remarks on the article:

As Draconian as DUI penalties have become, one would nevertheless hope that the offense would not destroy the accused’s life, at least for a first offense.  Increasingly, one would be wrong…

Great another example of Lawrence’s niche topic, which I will sum up as “MADD has driven us all mad”. And of course he’s right – most of the time – first time DWI penalties are too stiff, and this one sounds ridiculous.

Here’s what Lawrence cut and pasted from the news article:

A U.S, Military Academy cadet was found guilty of drunken driving by a military judge and sentenced to dismissal from the U.S. Army yesterday.

The verdict came less than three weeks before Dixon was due to graduate with the class of 2008.

Dixon was formally charged in December with violating two articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: drunken and reckless operation of a vehicle, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman…

The judge sentenced Dixon to one year and one month confinement, dismissal from the Army and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.

Well, that certainly fits the bill. Perhaps getting kicked out of West Point is appropriate, perhaps it’s not – but one year is waaaay to high a punishment for “just a DUI” – especially a first time offense. Unreasonable, capricious, arbritary, unfair, in other words: great material for a DWI blog.

There were a couple of things that didn’t ring 100% true to me though. Number one, although I’m no expert on Military law nor what gets you kicked out of West Point, I thought conduct unbecoming an officer was a little odd for a DUI. That might actually be true and I’ll try to check on it with my military defense lawyer friends over the next few days. I’ll report back if anything comes of it.

But number two was the ellipsis. I use – or perhaps overuse – parentheses, dashes and all sorts of unnecessary punctuation. But the dot-dot-dot after the next to last paragraph preceding the part about punishment. What could it be? Well here’s that portion of the original article with the quoted paragraphs before and after:

Dixon was formally charged in December with violating two articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: drunken and reckless operation of a vehicle, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

Dixon allegedly fled the scene and giving a false official statement after being involved in a drunken driving accident while on temporary duty in Maryland last July.

The judge sentenced Dixon to one year and one month confinement, dismissal from the Army and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.

[Emphasis Added]

Ah.  That explains a lot now doesn’t it? Sounds like ‘conduct unbecoming’ and theoretically would justify a higher sentence. A defense lawyer could certainly argue that the sentence here was still too high, given all the facts, but hiding that and pretending this is the wave of the future for first time DWI sentencing?

Stick to the facts and don’t embellish, even by omission. DWI penalties are indeed too high as is. Don’t lose credibility by getting caught in what now seems like a deliberate misrepresentation. After all, that dot-dot-dot didn’t come out of nowhere.

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Lendon - September 8, 2008 9:42 PM

I would definitely trun to my favourite San Diego DUI attorneys to help me handle a situation like that.

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