A family of five was traveling on Interstate 35E in Lewisville, Texas Easter Sunday when a man in a black Mazda 3 rear-ended their red Nissan Sentra killing wife and mother Kandace Hull and her 13-year-old daughter Autumn Caudle. Hull’s husband, Tony, and two other children were hospitalized in good condition at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.
WFAA reported Barton has three prior DWI convictions on his record. When he was released on parole one of the conditions was that his car would be outfitted with an interlock device that requires him to breath into the device before the car starts. The car Barton was driving is registered to his wife and did not have the interlock device installed.
Regardless of who is on the registration, if the couple are married, that car should have been outfitted with the interlock device. Granted it may cause a little inconvenience for Barton’s wife, but that device could have very well have saved two lives.
According to WFAA, Barton’s DWI history dates back to 1997 when he was first arrested for DWI and his second DWI was in January 2000. For each of those offenses (misdemeanors), he served just one-year in county jail. By the time he was released, the suspensions on his driver’s license had expired. He was convicted of his third DWI, a felony, in 2008.
Texas Needs Tougher DWI Laws:
While Texas has one of the stiffest DWI laws in the country, it’s not good enough. The Texas Transportation Code 521.344 says license suspensions related to DWI’s cannot exceed two years. This needs to change, though it is reasonable to say that whether someone has a valid driver’s license or not, they are likely to continue driving.
There comes a time when the state has to say enough is enough. DWI offenders are obviously not learning anything by the short time they spend in prison. Texas needs to toughen drunk driving laws to include stiffer jail or prison sentences. No more slapping offenders on the wrists. Prisons should also be required to provide alcohol rehabilitation services for those individuals who have been convicted of DWI and sentenced to do time in prison.
One change that may prove to be a deterrent is stiffer sentences for those who have multiple convictions of Driving While Intoxicated. Instead of giving habitual offenders two chances before slapping them with a felony, why not charge them with a felony if it happens twice? I can see giving someone one chance to fly right, but the honest truth is that if we continue giving them chances, they will continue putting the public at large at great risk.
Texas DWI offenders do not receive any form of alcohol treatment while incarcerated. When released, they are required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, usually twice a week. Of course, when they see their parole officers once a month, he or she is required to give a urinalysis to parolees, but for those who are adamant about drinking it’s easy for them to lay off for the few days leading up to their report day. Parole officers should be required to make random monthly visits without notification, UA kit in hand. Catching offenders off-guard may be yet another way to deter them from drinking. They can either stay sober or go back to prison for violating the terms of their parole.
My own father did 13 months in a Texas prison on a DWI charge after an alcohol-related, single vehicle crash. He is among those who did not receive any form of alcohol rehabilitation while serving time in TDCJ.
John Patrick Barton was less than honest with his parole officer and the State of Texas in order to get around the conditions of his parole. He ended up killing a beautiful little girl and her mother. Why does it take something this horrific for people to get mad? We should all be mad that this is allowed to happen.
According to MADD, “On average someone is killed by a drunk driver every 45 minutes.”
Autumn Caudle was an eighth grader at Argyle Middle School in Argyle, Texas. Friends decorated her locker and there are plans to have t-shirts made in her honor of a drawing she made of hands in the shape of a heart and will read, “There are four seasons, but there is only one Autumn”.
Transportation Code Chapter 521, Driver’s License and Certificates, SUSPENSION FOR OFFENSES INVOLVING INTOXICATION
– Mothers Against Drunk Driving – Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving – Statistics
WFAA, DWI murder suspect had valid license