The 48-year-old James Nachlinger of Scurry County, West Texas got a life sentence last March 2017 after his seventh DWI conviction.
Last year, on July 28, 2016, a Texas Department of Public Safety officer pulled over Nachlinger while driving on Interstate 20 in western Parker County.
A sample of his blood was taken, and a lab concluded that his blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit.
Mr. Nachlinger had ten prior DWI arrests. He received the maximum sentence under Texas law, and now the citizens of Texas will pay for his housing, food, medical bills and supervision for the rest of his life (unless he is released on parole).
Nachlinger apparently told authorities he still drinks “because he likes it.”
Life sentences for Texas DWI cases
Nachlinger’s case isn’t rare at all in Texas.
In 2015, Donald Middleton committed his ninth DWI conviction in Houston after crashing into a pickup. His blood alcohol content was .184, twice the legal limit.
The 56-year-old man received a life sentence, ineligible for parole until 2045.
In 2014, the 46-year-old Terry Lynn Stevens also received a life sentence by a Burnet County jury after crashing into a fence in Marble Falls.
At that time, his blood alcohol content was more than three times the limit. This was his seventh DWI conviction.
DWI conviction penalties in Texas
- 1st offense – Fine up to $2,000 with a jail time between 3 days and 180 days.
- 2nd offense – Fine up to $4,000 with a jail time between 1 month and a year.
- 3rd offense – Fine up to $10,000 with a jail time between 2 years and 10 years.
You are eligible for a life sentence on a DWI if you’ve had two or more prior trips to the penitentiary.
Life sentences needed to protect the public?
The Montgomery District attorney, Brett Ligon, believes that long sentences are inappropriate for the majority of cases.
But he thinks that when it comes to crimes committed for many times, it’s time to separate the offender from the society.
Alternative solutions to life sentences
Sentences taking 30 years and more can be costly. Some of the solutions offered are rehabilitation, longer license suspensions, and the use of interlock devices.
The former Republican state legislator, Jerry Madden prefers rehabilitation for DWI offenders as alcoholism is a serious addiction.
Texas law allows license suspensions up to two years unlike in other states that take up to five years.
The state can’t also permanently revoke licenses after multiple DWI convictions, which is possible for North Carolina and New York after a third offense.
Permanent revocations may not help after studies show that 50% to 70% of the offenders still drive with suspended licenses. Additionally, permanently revoking a license can make it impossible for someone to survive in a society dependent on vehicular transportation, especially if they have to comply with harsh probation requirements.
Ignition interlock devices can disable a car to start whenever its driver is drunk.
DWI offenders with interlocks were 67% less likely to be arrested again for the same offense.
There are still issues about interlocks not being the best solution to prevent drunk driving as drivers can cheat by using another car.