Man May Spend Life in Prison for DUI
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Last June, Anthony Lynn Falco of Taylor, Texas was pulled over for not using a turn signal before making a turn. As the officer initiated the traffic stop, he probably had no idea that the man behind the wheel would be sentenced to 60 years in prison as a result.
Falco failed to signal, not because he's simply a bad driver, but because he was intoxicated. After being pulled over, he admitted that he had been at the bar drinking and proceeded to fail field sobriety tests. Then realizing that he was probably in quite a lot of trouble, he refused to take a breath test to determine his blood alcohol content. After he refused the breath test, officers obtained a blood search warrant and a blood sample was taken from Falco. The results showed that his blood alchol content was more than twice the legal limit for driving and he was arrested for Texas DWI.
Since Falco had nine previous DWI convictions dating back to 1979, he was charged with felony Texas DWI. His last three Texas DWI convictions resulted in jail time, so Falco was probably expecting a prison sentence if convicted of this drunken driving charge as well. He just did not expect the 60 years that the judge handed down this time.
Falco entered a not guilty plea to felony DWI in January and waived his right to a jury trial. In a true example of how courts are cracking down on drunk drivers in a big way, District Court Judge Burt Carnes sentenced the 53-year-old Falco to 60 years in prison.
If Falco serves the entire sentence, he would be 113 years old at the time of his release, which is obviously well beyond the average life expectancy in the United States. The judge did have a heart though, and Falco will be eligible for parole in 15 years, when he is 68 years old.
The Austin American-Statesman reports that Falco not only has 10 Texas DWI convictions on his record, but also has previously been convicted of family violence, assault, forgery and multiple theft charges. He truly is no stranger to breaking the law, and his lengthy record may have played a part in the judge's decision to impose a harsh jail sentence.
District Attorney John Bradley of Williamson County, Texas is using Falco's case as a talking point to urge state lawmakers to pass legislation that would automatically require people with previous drunk driving convictions to submit to breath tests and to provide a blood sample to determine their blood alcohol content.
Earlier in March, another person convicted of Texas DWI in Williamson County received a lengthy prison sentence. Ramon Cavazos Jr. was sentenced to 25 years in jail when he was convicted of drunk driving and evading arrest. Cavazo was arrested on October 31 after leading police on a short chase. He is 32 years old and also has a criminal background that may have played a role in his sentencing. Cavazos has previously been convicted of Texas DUI two times and has done time in prison for felony burglary of a habitation, forgery and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.
The harsh sentences of these two habitual Texas DWI offenders are just a small example of how the legal system is cracking down on drunk driving. Across the country, legislators are passing tougher drunk driving laws and judges are taking notice and upping the penalties for DUI and DWI convictions. A message is clearly being sent that drunk driving is now considered a much more serious offense that it was in years past.