A DWI conviction does not have to be the end of the road. As the case of former Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) proves, people who drink and drive on a single occasion and take steps to remedy their behavior can mitigate the penalties for their actions.
For those charged with DWI, rehabilitation is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, but an opportunity to demonstrate to the court that they understand their mistake and intend to prevent it from happening again. Sweeney appeared for his DWI sentencing at Saratoga County Court just like any other prisoner — wearing handcuffs and shackles.
He previously had agreed to a plea bargain with the district attorney’s office, including 30 days in jail and 300 hours of community service, as well as three years of probation. Following his arrest for felony DWI, he entered a treatment facility for alcohol rehabilitation.
In some U.S. counties, drug courts are available for first-time DWI offenders. If the accused has never before been convicted of driving while intoxicated, he or she might have the opportunity to bargain for a lesser sentence, as Sweeney did. This also is sometimes true for crimes such as nonviolent burglaries if the perpetrator can show evidence of a drug or alcohol abuse problem.
There is a significant difference between pleading guilty to (or being convicted of) felony DWI and pleading guilty to a lesser charge.
Courts often look favorably upon those who attempt to seek treatment after a DWI arrest. Entering a treatment facility or seeking out addiction counseling can show the judge and the prosecutor that the accused is serious about changing their ways.
An experienced attorney can help you determine which course of action is best for your specific case. When DWI arrests are intermingled with other charges, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Talk to a criminal defense lawyer about your options.
Ex-Rep. Sweeney in shackles at sentencing