When what you thought would be an ordinary night out ends up in a Driving While Intoxicated charge, the best thing you can be is prepared for the DWI court process. Getting charged with DWI is unlike other criminal charges due to the fact that it uses two separate processes: a civil proceeding and a criminal proceeding that could result in multiple DUI consequences including the suspension of your license, jail time, and a hefty fine.
Whether this is a DWI first offense, or a serious felony, knowing what happens next can help you fight back. Take a deep breath. We know the DWI/DUI court process inside and out, and we’re going to make sure that you do too.
DWI/DUI Process in Texas
The Arrest and Booking
Unfortunately, you’re probably already well-informed of this stage as you likely already were arrested for DUI.
The arresting officer claimed to have had reasonable suspicion to pull you over, administered a sobriety test, read you your rights, and placed you in handcuffs. Once at the station, you were likely asked for a chemical specimen through a blood and/or a Breathalyzer test. After all is said and done, you would have been placed in a holding cell until you either paid bail or were taken to court.
Pay attention to the details during your arrest. Looking for mistakes in this step of the process can help you get a DWI dismissed in Texas.
Arraignment / Initial Appearance
At your arraignment hearing, a judge will read the charges against you and you will be asked to enter a plea (guilty or not guilty). Your next court dates will be set dependent on your plea.
As tempting as it might be to put this all behind you quickly, do not plead guilty without first consulting an attorney. Pleading guilty to DWI will create difficulties with everything from securing future job opportunities to renting a home. Even if you are guilty, the chance of dismissal of DWI in Texas is possible if you have the right legal team behind you.
Instead, you need to hire the best DWI lawyer you can find to help you navigate the DWI court process and work towards getting the charges dismissed.
With the exception of specific circumstances, it is your right to have a bond set within 48 hours of your arrest. Your bond would have been set depending on your criminal background, the status of your charge (misdemeanor or felony), whether anyone was hurt or killed, and any connections within your community.
The judge may also set certain conditions in place, like an ignition interlock, before you can be released. If you feel unsure of the requirements of your bond, you can have your board-certified DWI lawyer present with you during the hearing.
Civil Proceeding: Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearings
If you refused to take a blood or breath test, had a BAC of >0.08% while driving a non-commercial motor vehicle, or a BAC of 0.04% while driving a commercial motor vehicle, your license is at risk for suspension/disqualification.
You must request an ALR hearing within 15 days from the date the suspension notice is served. If no hearing is requested, your license will be suspended effective 40 days after the date you were served notice.
When you enter a plea, you and your defense attorney will sit in front of a judge. The judge will then lay out the charges against you, giving you the opportunity to plea (guilty or not guilty).
How you plead will determine the next steps.
If you plead Not Guilty at the plea hearing, your case then heads toward trial. And if you are then found Not Guilty by the jury, you have no conviction or penalties and can have the charge removed from your record.
If you plead guilty, you move into sentencing and will still have the DWI charge on your criminal record. Since this charge cannot be expunged, it will show on any future background checks. So, save yourself the reputation hit and fight the charges made against you with the help of an experienced DWI defense attorney.
This step is only necessary if you’ve been charged with intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter. If there is enough evidence against you, your DWI felony case will be pushed forward to a jury trial. If not, your case will be dismissed by the judge.
During pre-trial motions, your DWI lawyer will argue against a judge in an attempt to exclude evidence and challenge the means to which any evidence was obtained. The judge will then decide whether or not to exclude the evidence in question.
If this is your first time going through the DWI trial process, you might be asking yourself, “what happens when you get your first DWI in Texas?” If you’re a first time offender and have no criminal background, you may be able to qualify for the Pretrial Diversion program in Texas for DWI. This program would potentially allow you to expunge a DWI charge and keep your record pristine.
Criminal Proceeding: Trial
Your DWI case will only proceed to trial if you have pleaded Not Guilty and refused the plea entry. The trial process begins with your Texas DWI attorney selecting the jury. After they are sworn in, your case is explained to the jury in an opening statement, the state of Texas will present their evidence against you and witnesses may be called to testify.
After the state has presented their case, the Defense will question any witnesses or experts and present evidence to the jury. At this point, you have the option to testify as a witness or honor your 5th amendment right to not incriminate yourself. If this is your choice, the jury is not allowed to hold it against you in their decision.
The judge will ask the jury for their verdict of Guilty or Not Guilty after both sides have presented their case. If no verdict is reached, the judge will declare a mistrial and the case will potentially be heard by a future jury.
If you are found to be Not Guilty, you will be free of any future prosecution related to the DWI charge and you will be advised of your right to have it expunged from your record. So long as the proper paperwork is filed within 30 days of the verdict pronunciation, the mandated removal of all information related to the charge will be granted.
If found Guilty, you generally have the right to select whether the judge or the jury makes the sentencing decision. Since the judge’s ruling for a DWI case is typically more predictable, this would be our recommendation.
Despite Texas DPS surcharges being repealed, you may still face steep civil fees, jail time, license suspension, and other penalties.
How long does a DWI case take in Texas?
The length of your DWI case will depend on the specifics of your case and your location. Generally speaking, it takes about 20-40 days from your arrest before you are issued a court date for a misdemeanor. If you are being charged with a felony, it can take up to a few months to be issued your court dates.
Can I Fight a DWI in Texas?
The short answer? Yup. You absolutely can. In fact, you should.
The question is, do you know how to fight a DWI in Texas? While it is your right to represent yourself, we recommend hiring an experienced DWI attorney instead. And we’re not just saying that because we are successful DWI lawyers (although we have won over 100 Not Guilty verdicts and thousands of DWI dismissals).
We’re saying that because a board-certified attorney knows the ins and outs of the courtroom. They can help you navigate the trial process, understand your rights, and keep your record clean.
Hire a DWI Attorney in Texas with the Right Credentials
If you’re looking for a drunk driving attorney, you need one with the right experience and credentials to help you navigate the DWI court process and protect your criminal record.
Give yourself the best chance at avoiding a DWI conviction and hire Mark Thiessen to defend your case. Mark is one of Houston’s top DWI lawyers. He is Board Certified in DWI Defense Law by the National College of DWI Defense and has beaten serious charges including intoxication manslaughter and second DWI.
Call Thiessen Law Firm at 713-864-9000 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation today.
More Helpful Articles by Thiessen Law Firm:
- Can You Get DWI Expunged in Texas?
- Reasonable Suspicion Examples in Texas
- What Prescription Drugs Can You Not Drive On?
- Out of State DWI in Texas: How it Works
- Can You Be a Teacher With a DWI?