Texas courts are tough on those accused of DWI, and the DWI court process is not an easy thing to navigate without expert guidance. The court process for getting a DWI in Texas is actually two court processes: civil proceedings and a criminal trial. This means that you could be fighting a battle on two fronts, both of which could have severe consequences — especially if you don’t have a good DWI lawyer in your corner. 

You’ve likely got lots of questions: Will I get drug tested at my first court date?Can I represent myself in court? How long does it take to get a court date for DWI in Texas? Mark Thiessen and the DWI attorneys at Thiessen Law Firm know the DWI court process like the backs of their hands, and they’re here to explain the ins and outs of going to court after getting a DWI in Texas — and better yet, how to fight and win your DWI case. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested under suspicion of DWI and do not have expert representation, call the Houston DWI lawyers at Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 to defend your freedom. 

The DWI process in Texas courts

Arrest and booking

Unfortunately, you’re probably already well-informed of this stage as you were likely already arrested for DWI.

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. If law enforcement officers made any mistakes during this step of the process it may help your attorney get your DWI dismissed in Texas.

DWI arraignment

What is an arraignment for DWI in Texas? 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 depending 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. Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty, and once you plead guilty, you lose your opportunity to fight. 

You can request a court-appointed attorney to represent you against the state court — but if you can, you should hire the best DWI lawyer Houston has to offer to help you navigate the DWI court process and work towards getting the charges dismissed. Your future is worth the fight. 

Posting bond

Under most circumstances, it is your right to have a bond set within 48 hours of your arrest. How much is bail for a DWI? Your bond will be 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.

ALR Hearing

Your license will be in danger of suspension or revocation after a DWI arrest. If you plan on saving your license, your attorney will need to request an Administrative License Revocation Hearing in which they can dispute the suspension/revocation of your license. 

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.

Plea entry

During a plea entry, the judge will lay out the charges against you, giving you the opportunity to plead (guilty or not guilty, no you cannot just plead the 5th).

How you plead will determine the next steps. 

  • If you plead not guilty at the plea hearing, your case then heads toward trial. 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. 

In our opinion, you should always try to fight a DWI. The way we see it you can save yourself the heartache and fight the charges made against you with the help of an experienced DWI defense attorney, or you can just accept life-altering penalties forever without trying to fight for your future. 

Pre-trial motions

During pre-trial motions, both the prosecution and defense may file pre-trial motions to address issues they have that could impact the case. Your DWI lawyer will argue against a judge in an attempt to exclude evidence and challenge how any evidence was obtained. The judge will then decide whether or not to exclude the evidence in question.

Resolving these issues during the pre-trial phase will help ensure the fairness of the trial. Having an experienced and aggressive DWI lawyer in your corner during the pre-trial setting is essential to eventually winning your DWI case. 

If you’re a first-time offender and have no criminal background, you may be able to qualify for the DWI Pretrial Diversion program in Texas. This program would potentially allow you to expunge a DWI charge and keep your record pristine.


The trial is the centerpiece of the DWI court process. It provides your DWI defense attorney the opportunity to present your case before a judge or jury. 

During the trial, witnesses may be called, evidence presented, and arguments made. Your attorney will confront the prosecution, law enforcement, or witnesses and challenge evidence against them. 

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.


There are essentially only two verdicts possible. Guilty and not guilty.  

  • 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.
  • 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 is usually our recommendation. Despite Texas DPS surcharges being repealed, you may still face steep civil fees, jail time, license suspension, and other penalties.

There is often a long and winding road to a not guilty verdict, but that doesn’t mean they are impossible. The attorneys at Thiessen Law Firm have secured 100+ Not Guilty verdicts for our clients, on top of 1,000s of dismissals. 

The bottom line is this: your best shot at freedom is working with a skilled attorney who can guide you through the Texas DWI court process. 

Continue reading: What does acquitted mean?

How long does the Texas DWI court process take?

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.

This initial court date, however, is just the beginning of the Texas DWI court process, and the timeline of events following your initial appearance only gets longer and more complex.

How do I get my DWI dismissed in Texas?

Chances of dismissal of DWI in Texas go up astronomically if you do two things:

  • Do not incriminate yourself during or after your arrest 
  • Hire a lawyer who gets DWI cases dismissed 

Although much of the DWI court process will be out of your hands, these two things are in your control and will go a long way toward setting yourself up for success. Your attorney will use a number of strategies to attempt to get your DWI case dismissed. Although they depend entirely upon the specific circumstances of your case, some of the more common methods include:

  • Challenging the constitutionality of the traffic stop
  • Questioning the evidence, which could include:
    • Field sobriety tests
    • Blood or breath tests
  • Look for errors in the police work or lack of alignment between reports and testimonies

You can fight a DWI in Texas, but to win you will likely need the help of a talented and dedicated attorney that you can trust. 

Continue reading: How to fight a DWI in Texas

You need expert representation to survive the Texas DWI court process

Although navigating the DWI court process in Texas can be a challenging and complex prospect, having a skilled Texas DWI attorney at your side can make all the difference. 

From the initial arrest to the final verdict, strategic planning and careful consideration are vital at each and every stage of the court process, and any slip-ups can mean dire consequences. 

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 the only lawyer in America who is triple Board Certified in the following categories:

  1. Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization
  2. DUI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense as approved through the American Bar Association
  3. DUI Law by the DUI Defense Lawyers Association
  4. Board Certified Advocate in Criminal Trial Law by the NBTA Foundation

Call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 or contact us online to request a free consultation. Prepare yourself for Texas courts by hiring the best in Texas. 

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Thiessen Law Firm

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.