A Texas man with four driving-while-intoxicated convictions attempted to overturn his four-year prison sentence by arguing that the state’s legal limit for drivers’ blood-alcohol level discriminates against alcoholics, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Ralph Alfred Friesenhahn of San Antonio insisted that the 0.08 blood-alcohol concentration limit for Texas drivers doesn’t account for frequent drinkers’ higher alcohol tolerances, the paper said, adding that a “protected class of alcoholics” can be prosecuted — and without having to prove that they lost control of their mental or physical abilities.
How did the appeals court rule?
Austin’s 3rd Court of Appeals said in an opinion issued Friday that state law isn’t unfair to alcoholics because it applies to all drivers equally, the American-Statesman reported.
Friesenhahn also failed to show evidence that alcoholics are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Justice Cindy Olson Bourland said in her opinion, the paper noted.
What’s the background of the case?
Friesenhahn was arrested after a 2016 single-car rollover accident, and tests showed a blood-alcohol concentration of .29 — over 3.5 times the legal limit, the American-Statesman reported.
His attorney, Gina Jones, wanted Friesenhahn’s indictment thrown out, arguing that the legal driving limit discriminated against alcoholics, the paper said, but District Judge Jack Robison denied the request.
Friesenhahn was convicted of felony DWI in relation to alcohol-related convictions in 1985, 1990 and 1998, the American-Statesman reported, but Jones made the same argument during the appeal process, culminating in Friday’s decision.
How did another official react?
Sammy McCrary, chief of the felony division for the Comal County criminal district attorney’s office, told the paper that suggesting state law treats alcoholics differently is ridiculous and misleading.
“You’re not being punished for being an alcoholic. It’s the driving that’s the problem,” McCrary told the American-Statesman. “It’s making the decision to get into a 3,000-pound vehicle … after drinking.”
More from the paper:
The National Transportation Safety Board in 2013 recommended that states reduce the legal limit to 0.05, saying the move could cut fatal accidents almost in half, and last month the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine made the same suggestion, saying studies found lower accident rates in countries that adopted the lower limit.
Last year, Utah became the first state to cut its limit to 0.05 in a law that takes effect Dec. 30.