If you’ve previously read this blog, you know that we often talk about the severe consequences, including money penalties, driver’s license suspension and revocation, and even imprisonment, that can come with being convicted of DUI. In a recent state Supreme Court decision, however, a suspected drunk driver saw his fortunes take an even sharper turn for the worse when he decided to pretend to be his brother.
Mr. Soustek was arrested and charged with DUI following an April 2012 incident in which he was pulled over when a police officer noticed that the car Soustek was driving had a broken brake light. He was brought before a magistrate judge the same night and signed a bail agreement. During this appearance, Soustek gave the judge his brother’s name. His bail was set for $1,700. Soustek’s brother later found out about the false information and told the local police about the situation.
Soustek was later charged with two counts of identity theft, in violation of West Virginia Code § 61-3-54. He signed a conditional plea agreement, pleading guilty to the charges, after a judge denied his motion to dismiss the identity theft counts. He then appealed the judge’s decision, arguing that the false information that he gave on the bail documents wasn’t the type of situation covered under the identity theft statute. Section 61-3-54 makes it unlawful to take another person’s name or information “with the intent to fraudulently represent that he or she is the other person for the purpose of making financial or credit transactions in the other person’s name.” Soustek argued that the bail agreement didn’t qualify as a “financial or credit transaction” under the statute.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the Supreme Court noted that the statute doesn’t actually define the term “financial transaction.” Nevertheless, the high court said that the bail agreement qualified as a financial transaction because it was directly related to money. That was true, according to the Court, even though no money actually changed hands between two people at the time that Soustek gave the false information.
“The facts before us establish that the Petitioner used his brother’s name, without his brother’s consent, for the purpose of obtaining bail from the magistrate,” the Court explained. “This use was for a financial transaction because, based upon the information that the Petitioner provided, the Petitioner was allowed to pay the amount of $1,700 set by the magistrate in order to secure the Petitioner’s appearance to answer the criminal charges that had been brought against him.”
This case is just one example of the wide variety of legal consequences that can come with a DUI charge. If you or a loved one has been charged with driving under the influence, the West Virginia DUI lawyers at the Wolfe Law Firm can help. Our firm has been serving clients throughout the state for more than 25 years. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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