Penalties Pile on in DWI Case

Here is another reason not to get a DWI, the state may release any video of your arrest for the public to consume. That is what will happen because of a recent ruling by a Texas court of appeals. In that ruling, the court held that a redacted video recording showing the arrest of prominent Texas country singer must be released to the public.

This case was all over the news in 2012 when the man was arrested for DWI in Tioga, Texas. The situation was particularly embarrassing for the singer because when the police arrived on scene he was reported to be unclothed and intoxicated. Following the investigation and charges, he pled guilty to DWI and the matter was settled in the courts, at least the criminal courts. But the civil courts are demanding the tape be released to the public.

Anytime someone famous is in trouble or makes the news, a certain segment of the population craves every detail and bit of information involved. So there are industries and businesses centered on getting as much data, photos, videos, and information possible no matter how seedy or embarrassing. And that is what happened here. Once the case was settled, different groups sought to have the video recording released to the public. The singer tried to have the video release stopped, but the court saw the issue differently.

The Texas Public Information Act

Under a Texas Law known as the Texas Public Information Act (PIA), most government documents and stored information must be disclosed to the public once requested. There are a number of reasons why laws like this exist. For example, open disclosure laws such as these keep the government honest when all of their official dealings must be revealed for public consumption.

Another reason why these laws are good can happen in the context of DWIs and other criminal law situations. For example, when the police know that the video they are in front of during arrests will someday be made public, this incentivizes them to act within the bounds of the constitution as they do their jobs. But there are times when such a public disclosure can lead embarrassment and simply satisfy the sordid appetites of a never-satisfied, detail-hungry public.

The PIA does have protections that help to prevent such embarrassing revelations, but as this court’s ruling shows, they do protect everyone in every situation. Unless a person can show that revealing a government document would violate some right protecting confidential information, than the information will likely be released. The country singer’s team is going to appeal this decision, but such public disclosure laws are often interpreted more liberally.

Ongoing DWI Punishments

This case is an example of how a DWI charge can lead to more penalties than those depicted in Texas law. While we all like to think that we live under a judicial system that presumes innocence until guilt is proven, often that is not the case. Too many times people are shamed and labeled an offender before a charge is even filed. That is why it is important to have a legal team on your side that knows and understand the “innocent until proven guilty” standard.

At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm, we know and understand how to defend DWI charges in Texas. If you are accused of DWI, contact us. We will review your case for free and help you understand what your rights and options are.

(image courtesy of I. Bailey)

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