Man arrested on 6th drunken driving charge

DWI Court judge: 'The issue is critical'

Published On: Jan 27 2014 05:04:04 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 27 2014 05:35:56 PM CST

When 40-year-old Fernando Guerra Jr. (pictured) was arrested early Sunday on his sixth drunken driving charge, he may not have known he was the latest example of a chronic problem in Bexar County.

San Antonio police said Guerra sideswiped another vehicle on South Zarzamora when he veered into oncoming traffic.

Public records show Guerra was arrested five other times over since 2000, and he was awaiting trial for his last DWI arrest, now scheduled for early next month.

District Clerk Donna McKinney also said her records show Guerra already had been sentenced to five years in prison for a felony DWI in 2002. He then was placed on probation for six years for another felony DWI in 2005 that he completed in 2012.

“The problem is very significant,” said Judge Liza Rodriguez who presides over County Court at Law No. 8. “The issue is critical.”

She said her court is trying to identify those with alcohol problems early on, to help reduce the number of repeat offenders.

However, Rodriguez’s court in existence since last May, only deals with some of the hundreds of first and second time DWI misdemeanor arrests.

“You’re talking about a very large population and my program has just started, so we’re dealing with a small number of offenders at this time,” Rodriguez said.

She said although other courts may screen those defendants for potential problems with alcohol, her DWI Court that convenes every other Friday has a more intensive approach.

“We require treatment, coming to court on a regular basis, and having an assigned probation officer who is well trained in repeat offenders,” Rodriguez said.

A case manager also helps meet their other needs such as health care, employment and housing, that if not met, could jeopardize their sobriety.

But she said even then, it may be six months before their assessment and treatment begin, leaving defendants vulnerable.

“Our hands are really tied in many ways. It is very frustrating at the misdemeanor level because of the numbers of people we deal with,” Rodriguez said.

The judge said she hopes to garner more support from Bexar County officials and taxpayers to make it possible to hear even more cases in DWI Courts like hers.

“Or we’re going to have to invest in the back end,” Rodriguez said. “People going to prison, getting out, going back to prison, getting out, and then potentially causing a tragedy on the roadway.”

For a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.