In 2013, Donald Huff was sentenced to a 45-year prison term by a state District Court Judge, Sid Harle, in Bexar County, Texas. Huff was convicted of killing Arlene Kay Harding-Watts, age 46 at the time of death, when he hit her while driving while intoxicated. Because the intoxication offense was Huff’s third, the prosecution argued that he should be charged with murder rather than intoxication manslaughter. In Texas, a third offense driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge is considered a felony.
Blood Drawn from Huff at Time of Arrest Sans Warrant
At the time that Huff was arrested for the intoxication while driving charge, and for killing Harding-Watts, his blood was drawn to check his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level. However, a warrant was not obtained prior to having his blood collected (under the state’s implied consent laws, law enforcement officers can request chemical testing, such as a breathalyzer, of a driver if they suspect intoxication).
Missouri vs. McNeely Changes Implied Consent Rule
In 2013, the Supreme Court heard the case of Missouri vs. McNeely. Essentially, the outcome of the case was thus: regardless of state laws that state otherwise, police officers must obtain a warrant prior to subjecting a person suspected of drinking while driving to a blood test.
Court Declares Blood Draw Unconstitutional; Sentence Overturned
Because of the Missouri vs. McNeely case, the court responsible for hearing Huff’s case declared that, “because the warrantless blood draw violated Huff’s Fourth Amendment rights and we cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt that the erroneous admission of the results of the blood draw did not contribute to his conviction, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand this matter for a new trial.” In other words, the conviction and sentence—a 45-year prison term for DWI murder—were dropped against Huff. Huff’s attorney, Dayna Jones, said that she was pleased with the court’s decision.
The Importance of a Defense Attorney for DWI Charges
Without a criminal defense attorney, it’s likely that Huff’s sentence wouldn’t have been appealed, and the sentence would not have been overturned, providing him the opportunity to have his constitutional rights protected in the form of a new trial.
If you’ve been charged with a DWI crime, a Texas DWI attorney can provide you with the representation and defense that you need to reduce your sentence, or even have the charges against you dropped. To learn more, call the offices of Johnson, Johnson, & Baer, P.C. now at (713) 222-0400.