In the past, law enforcement officers pulled over for driving while intoxicated (DWI) may have been given a free pass. But in the era of dashcams, body cameras, and increased scrutiny of law enforcement, officers can no longer expect to get out of a DWI arrest. Just like ordinary citizens, they will likely be arrested and charged with drunk driving, at which point their best option is to call an experienced DWI lawyer. Unlike civilians, police officers may be subject to additional penalties from their department if they get caught drunk driving, even if the offense occurred when they were off duty.
Houston Police Officer Recently Arrested for DWI
At 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 12, a Department of Public Safety (DPS) trooper pulled over a Toyota pickup truck on State Loop 494 after it committed a traffic violation. At the wheel was William Lacy, 46, an off-duty officer of the Houston Police Department (HPD). The 20-year HPD veteran appeared drunk, so the trooper arrested him on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. A blood sample was taken for evidence, and Lacy was booked in Montgomery County Jail.
The HPD suspended Officer Lacy pending the outcome of an internal investigation. The police union will not be representing Lacy in this matter. According to union president Joe Gamaldi, “since this occurred off duty and not in the course and scope of his duty as a police officer, we will not be representing him.”
Police Officers May Face Criminal and Administrative Penalties for DWI
When police officers get charged with a crime, they are not given preferential treatment when compared to ordinary citizens. In a DWI case, law enforcement officials are subject to the same penalties as citizens including fines, a suspended driver’s license, probation, and possible jail time. The judge will determine the officer’s penalties based on the facts and circumstances specific to his case.
If Lacy is convicted of DWI, the judge may be tempted to make an example out of him. Police officers, even when off-duty, are held to a higher standard of conduct than most citizens. However, Lacy’s DWI lawyer may be able to point to positive aspects of his professional record to obtain leniency. Any good deeds he may have performed, such as donating stem cells to a young cancer patient, would be relevant facts to highlight at the sentencing hearing.
It is likely that Lacy will receive an official reprimand from the HPD. The consequences of an on-duty DWI would be harsher, but this case shows that the police department also treats off-duty violations seriously. Lacy has already been suspended, and it is unclear if he is still receiving pay. Should the investigation show that he was intoxicated while driving, his employment could potentially be terminated. Alternatively, he could be placed on leave while he addresses his potential substance abuse issues. The specific penalty he receives will depend on the content of his employment record and the facts that emerge during the investigation.
Call a DWI Lawyer for Help Today
If you are a law enforcement officer or public official charged with a crime, do not let the criminal justice system make an example out of you. Act fast and contact an experienced Houston DWI lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett for help. Contact us at (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free case evaluation today.