West Texans Don't Want First Time Drunk Drivers Acquitted

By: Cierra Putman
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - A proposed bill to allow first time DWI offenders to be acquitted is already getting buzz but many West Texans are not in favor of it.

"I drank and drove before and had horrible accidents and did bad things and they kept enabling me," Mike Liles, a former drunk driver, said. "I kept drinking and driving and they slapped me on the hand. I got a good lawyer and I got off."

Liles has been sober for 16 years now but after receiving several DUI's, he thinks first time DWI offenders shouldn't get let off easy.

"It took a long time (for me to stop,)" he said. "Eleven times going to jail. I kind of wished they had throw me in jail for a lengthy time the first or second time and maybe I wouldn't have kept doing what I was doing."

Local attorney and Stop DWI President Mark Dettman agrees.

"When I first became a prosecutor 30 years ago proved to be unworkable," he said. "This seems to me like a step backwards."

Both men think Texas should throw the book at first time offenders but if a proposed bill is approved that won't be the case.

Instead of jail time or fines, a first time offender could plead guilty and get acquitted after undergoing supervision and training, but they could spend more time behind bars or more money on fines if they get caught driving intoxicated later on.

"I think that's a good idea, but I think to say OK your first DWI doesn't count that would be a mistake," Dettman said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and others supporting the bill say it will stop DWI cases from clogging the courts.

"I really don't know what their thinking is," Dettman said. "There doesn't need to be a back log, put more emphasis on prosecuting them and that will that take care of it."

And Liles thinks DWI punishments should mirror the seriousness of drinking and driving.

"What's the worst thing that can happen if you don't drink and drive," he said. "You save lives."