Court: DWI sentence 'illegally lenient'

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A man who appealed his fourth "fourth-offense" drunken driving conviction on the grounds that he was too intoxicated to understand the consequences of apologizing has not only lost his appeal, but a chance at parole or probation.

Brian James Watkins wanted the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to throw out a statement he made to a state trooper after the accident.

A three-judge panel unanimously rejected his argument. It also found that trial Judge George Larke Jr. was "illegally lenient" when he said Watkins might win supervised release after serving three years of his 18-year term at hard labor.

Larke should have ordered him to serve the entire sentence, as required by law for people who have received probation or a suspended sentence on a previous fourth-offense DWI conviction, Judge Mitchell R. Theriot wrote for himself and Judges J. Michael McDonald and Page McClendon.

All three "predicate" offenses also were for a fourth or subsequent offense, and Watkins got probation or a suspended sentence all three times, Theriot noted in footnotes.

Watkins was arrested Dec. 10, 2013, after a wreck about 9 p.m. that day in Terrebonne Parish near Houma, according to Theriot's opinion, handed down Dec. 23 and first described by The Courier. State troopers said his truck turned illegally in front of an oncoming vehicle, hit a second vehicle, and drove off.

Published: Wed, Dec 30, 2015

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