Appeals Court Refuses to Reverse DWI Conviction of Austin Man Who “Unequivocally” Decided to Represent Himself
July 17th, 2020 by Tad Nelson in DWI
A DWI charge is not a parking ticket. It is not something that you should try to contest yourself without the assistance of experienced counsel. While you do have a constitutional right to represent yourself in any criminal matter, that does not make it a good idea, especially since the potential penalties can be quite severe.
Consider this recent drunk driving case from Austin, Hernandez v. State. Police arrested the defendant on DWI charges following a traffic stop. The defendant had two prior DWI convictions, so this new charge was considered a third-degree felony under Texas law.
About six months before his trial, the defendant informed the judge that he wanted to represent himself. The court appointed a licensed attorney as “stand-by counsel.” The judge advised the defendant that if he was convicted of the felony DWI charge, he faced up to 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The defendant acknowledged this and again said he wished to represent himself.
Later, just before jury selection began, the trial judge again asked the defendant if he wanted to continue representing himself. He said he did. The trial judge also asked about the defendant’s educational and professional background. The defendant replied that he was a cryogenic technician who had attended community college–but he had no experience with the law or trying a criminal case. The trial judge then asked once more if the defendant wished to continue representing himself, or whether he wanted his stand-by counsel to take over. For the final time, the defendant said, “I can handle it.”
You can probably guess what happened next. The jury found the defendant guilty of felony DWI. The court imposed a prison sentence of six years. The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing the trial court “provided him with inadequate admonishments about the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation” and that he never “knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel.”
The Court of Appeals was not sympathetic. The appeals court said the trial judge made repeated admonitions to the defendant about the risks of proceeding without the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Yet the defendant “remained unequivocal and consistent in his expression of intent to represent himself.” Indeed, the defendant told the trial judge, “I’m a grown man, and I can get myself out of this because it’s the right thing to do to represent myself.” Having made his decision, the Court of Appeals said, the defendant could not now complain about the outcome.
Speak with a Houston DWI & Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer Today
Asking for help should never be viewed as a sign of weakness. This is especially true when you are facing criminal drunk driving charges. Managing a trial defense is complex work that requires an extensive understanding of the law and courtroom procedures. So when your liberty is on the line, you should never hesitate to seek the assistance and representation of a qualified criminal defense lawyer in Houston, Galveston or League City. If you are facing DWI charges and need help, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today by calling 281-280-0100.