DWI and Punishment Before Conviction

In case you missed it, Casey Pachall, the starting quarterback for the TCU Horned Frogs, was arrested this week. As the article notes, and as any college football fan already knows, Pachall was suspended indefinitely from the team. Even a cursory scan of internet message boards will show that this is considered a “good thing,” impressing readers of such snap reactions that the conventional wisdom remains that an allegation of DWI should result in significant consequences.

The purpose of this post isn’t to argue with the conventional wisdom, rather it is to disaffect the reader of the notion that the legal requirement of considering defendants innocent before conviction does not, in reality, have great effect. The truth of the matter is those accused of DWI can potentially be punished long before conviction, even by the court. The example of TCU’s QB is not isolated, as you no doubt know of one or more people accused of DWI who lose their jobs outright, are suspended, or simply lose privileges at their place of employment. However, even the court system can mete out punishment before a determination of guilt is made.

An accused person can have his or her driver’s license suspended before conviction, can be ordered not to drink, can be ordered to pay for various costs of pre-trial release, can be ordered to pay for and use an ignition interlock, and in extreme cases can be required to wear a device which monitors whether alcohol is consumed at all. If the accused is unable to make a bond, in some counties he or she may also lose their freedom while awaiting trial. Even those able to make bond can be confined to house arrest, or simply given a curfew. Another possible condition of bond is mandatory enrollment and attendance of AA classes or other similar alcohol awareness/abuse programs. Many of these conditions of bond are rare, however, they are not difficult for the judge to impose, when he or she feels they are warranted.

What should you take away from all of this? Quite simply, and now more than ever, it is just not a good idea to grab even a drink or two out on the town without a plan on how to get home safely. The best advice from any DWI lawyer will not help you avoid the often nasty pre-trial consequences both inside and outside the legal system. Whether it is by getting a designated driver, utilizing access to public transit, or by sleeping it off on a friend’s couch, there’s no better way to prevent punishment for DWI than staying out of the driver’s seat.