A DWI arrest in Texas can be one of the most stressful and damaging events in a person’s life. Even though a first offense is a misdemeanor, the experience can come with a number of troubling consequences, including criminal charges, fines, jail time and often a lingering social stigma.
The good news is that DWIs are beatable. In fact, we do it all the time. Give us a call and we can tell you more.
What Happens When You’re Arrested for DWI?
If you are arrested for DWI, law enforcement officials will walk you through the following steps during processing.
- Record your personal information
- Perform a search of your records for any criminal background
- Record information about the alleged crime
- Obtain fingerprints and photographs
- Perform a search of your person
- Confiscate your personal property
- Place you in a local jail or police station holding cell
Texas law guarantees you an initial court appearance before a magistrate within 48 hours of arrest. However, this often happens much sooner. It may take place in a jail courtroom with the judge present or through a closed-circuit video link.
After DWI Arrest, You Should Request an ALR Hearing
If you refuse field sobriety testing or measure a .08 or higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC), your license will be suspended. You’ll be given a temporary license called a Notice Of Suspension Temporary Driving Permit (DIC-23), along with a Statutory Warning (DIC-24).
These documents serve as reminders of the fact that you were arrested for DWI and that your license will be suspended for 90 days up to one year, and 180 days up to two years for repeat offenses.
Finally, these documents will inform you that you are entitled to challenge your suspension at an Administrative License Revocation Hearing (ALA) within 15 days of your arrest. These proceedings take place at the Texas Department of Public Safety and are a separate process from your criminal case.
You will receive a hardship license if you and your lawyer are successful at the ALR hearing. This grants you legal authority to drive to work, school, the store and other essential locations. You must act within the initial 15 day window to take advantage of this option.
The ALR case is important because it gives your attorney the opportunity to accomplish several things, including:
- Discover pertinent information which can help your forthcoming DWI case
- Challenge the evidence that will be used against you
- Subpoena the officer to the hearing and lock in his testimony so he can’t change it later or attempt to correct mistakes made during the arrest
- Protect you from having your license suspended
- To weaken the case against you
If You Are Arrested for a DWI, Get an Experienced Attorney
The most important decision you can make if you’re arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, is to retain an experienced attorney with a proven track record of successful DWI cases.
A great lawyer will take care not only of the obvious details but several things that won’t be evident to you or even an inexperienced attorney. They’ll perform in-depth research and gather evidence, file necessary motions and do everything they can to negotiate your release. A proven attorney will coach you on what to say and how to say it. They’ll guide you on how to behave in court and how to conduct yourself outside of court while you’re awaiting trial.
Your attorney can spot weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, picking apart inconsistencies or details that don’t appear to line up with the facts. Lawyers have access to an abundance of resources and they possess the ability to calm your nerves with their sound advice and clear direction. Finally, don’t forget that they’ll help you get your license back.
What Are the Consequences of a DWI Arrest?
The consequences of a DWI arrest include the following:
- You will be detained and taken into custody.
- You will be booked (processed) at a police station.
- Officers will take your driver’s license.
- You’ll be given a temporary driving permit to use up to 40 days or until the court makes a decision on whether to suspend your license.
- Paying Bail to get released: The judge will inform you of the requirements for your release during your initial hearing. He or she will state any requirements for your release, like an ignition interlock device, and then set the amount for bail.
- Because of your detention, you may miss time at work (lost wages), scheduled appointments, family events or other important commitments.
DWI Conviction Consequences
If convicted of a DWI, consequences range from fines and jail time to more personal and professional consequences that impact multiple areas of your life. First time offenders receive a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a $2000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. If you came up with a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher, your Class A misdemeanor will land you a potential $6000 fine, up to 12 months in jail and a supervised release. Fines and jail time increase with repeat offenses.
In addition to penalties handed down from the court, you will face several other collateral consequences with the potential to negatively impact your life forever. Some of these include:
- Loss of job or career
- Loss of professional licenses including law, medical, government, caretaker, teaching, vocational or other credentials
- Suspension of your business license
- Losing custody of your children because your spouse or child welfare agents perceive your behavior as a danger to your children
- Loss of your firearm license
- Removal of your security clearance or airport clearance
- Loss of your visa or protected immigration status
- Loss of your car
- Loss of your spouse’s and child’s trust
- Negative changes in your relationships with friends, extended family and the communities you’re involved in
What Happens to My Car After a DWI Arrest?
Officers choose one of three options based on the details of your offense. They can allow your passenger to take the vehicle if they are sober and have a valid driver’s license. They can wait for your family to come pick it up. Or they can have your vehicle towed and impounded.
If law enforcement impounds your vehicle, they should provide you with details on how to get it back quickly, provided there are no additional restrictions connected with your violation. They can provide you with the names and contact information for the towing service used and the yard where your vehicle will be stored. You’ll need to pay towing and impound charges, yard fees and fees associated with the storage of your vehicle. Unsurprisingly, these expenses can add up quickly.
Will I Go to Jail After a DWI Arrest?
Everyone arrested for DWI will go to jail until the judge sets the conditions of release and you get bailed out. Long-term jail time as a consequence of a DWI conviction depends on a range of factors in your case.
Our team of experienced attorneys ensures that most of our first-time DWI clients never serve jail time. In the majority of cases, we help our second-time offenders avoid jail as well. However, the chances of doing time increase with a third DWI.
When Will I Be Released on Bail?
Depending on the judge’s interpretation of the facts, he may allow you to post bail immediately following your booking at the police station. If he doesn’t permit this option, he will decide on bail later at the arraignment.
The judge will set bail according to either a bail schedule or his own monetary figure based on your DWI record and criminal history. The judge will also factor in the seriousness of the offense as it relates to the injury of others and your responsibilities to family, work and community.
The US Constitution also stipulates that individuals are entitled to a reasonable and not excessive bail. This means that the figure must not be impossible for the individual to come up with.
Options for Bail
A few different bail types exist for DWI offenders, including:
This is a straightforward type of bail where the defendant or his or her friends or family pay the specified amount for your release.
The most popular form of bail in Texas, a surety bond is a kind of loan which involves a third party. The defendant’s family will make the arrangement with a licensed bond agency or bondsman. This agency will charge a fee, often 10 percent of the total bail. Bond agencies may also demand additional collateral since they will be responsible for paying the full bail amount if the defendant fails to appear as promised.
Additionally, the defendant’s family will carry the responsibility of paying back the debt incurred by the bondsman when the agency covered the total amount of bail because of the defendant’s missed court appearance.
When the family doesn’t have access to the requisite funds for bail, they can choose a property bond. The defendant’s home or other family member’s home is used as collateral. There will be a home appraisal and a lien placed on the property. This is a time-consuming process and homes will need to be valued at 150% of the bond total or higher.
Some Texas counties allow attorney bonds. This is similar to a surety bond but in this case, the defendant’s attorney charges their client a fee, often 10%, and pays for their client’s release. The lawyer must prove that they represent the client in some way. Individuals sometimes choose this option when discretion is of utmost importance.
Judges sometimes issue personal recognizance (PR) bonds when they believe the defendant is not a threat to society. The judge will release the defendant without money changing hands. The individual will need to report to a PR bond associate who will charge a service fee for monitoring the defendant as they await trial. Judges issue Personal Recognizance bonds more often when the defendant has strong ties to their community.
There is no prescribed timeframe for release after posting bail. Even after the time it takes to pay bail or arrange a bond, it can take 4 to 8 hours or more before you are released.
Court Proceedings After DWI Arrest
During your initial appearance, or arraignment, you will enter a plea, either guilty or not guilty.
When you plead not guilty, your case will head toward trial on a future date. Don’t plead guilty without first consulting with your attorney. The consequences can be significant.
If you plead guilty, you will move toward sentencing and receive a permanent criminal charge on your record. Rely on the guidance and skill of your lawyer to help you fight the charges and avoid the negative effects of having a record.
At this stage, your DWI attorney can challenge the validity of certain evidence and attempt to have other evidence excluded (suppressed) from trial, depending on how it was obtained. If evidence is suppressed, it can make the prosecutor’s case much more difficult to prove. Sometimes, the case will be dismissed altogether.
DWI cases can be resolved in a number of ways, the least of which being time in court. In fact, only two percent of these cases ever go to trial. Some of the most common DWI resolutions include:
Unsurprisingly, this is the most desirable of all outcomes. It’s also rare. In this scenario, prosecutors can agree to dismiss the case for several reasons, including lack of evidence. DUI/DWI charges also get dismissed during motion hearings for other reasons, the most common of which is suppression of evidence, but also lapses in the statute of limitations, violations of speedy trial rights and misconduct on the part of the prosecution.
If you’re a first-time offender with no criminal record, you may be able to qualify for the Pre-trial Diversion Program, and avoid conviction and further penalties. Pre-trial Diversion is a year-long program allowing for the dismissal of your DWI case once you’ve completed the entire process. You can also have your arrest expunged from record two years after you have finished the program.
During this time, you must blow into a portable alcohol monitor three times per day at specific intervals, and do so cleanly, with no trace of alcohol. This means zero alcohol consumption for a year. You must also avoid any additional criminal activity. Conditions for the allowance of a pre-trial diversion include:
- Must be a first-time offense
- You’ve never used pretrial diversion before
- Your offense is a misdemeanor (or a select felony)
- Your offense did not involve national security, gang activities, foreign affairs, family violence or sexual crimes.
- Your DWI did not involve a collision with any other vehicles or pedestrians
With a pre-trial diversion, you admit guilt but avoid many of the consequences of your crime, including a final conviction on your record. Most importantly, you’ll be spared the hardship of additional jail time, along with the loss of driving privileges and other consequences in exchange for your complete cooperation for the duration of the program.
Deferred Adjudication (Deferred Prosecution)
Somewhat similar to a pre-trial diversion, a deferred adjudication is an extrajudicial agreement between the prosecutors and the defendant. The State agrees not to prosecute in exchange for the defendant’s admission of guilt and his or her agreement to any number of probation requirements. These may include community service, substance abuse treatment, classes, check-ins with your probation officer and other requirements.
During the program, the State places several conditions on the defendant, which may include the placement of an ignition interlock device on the individual’s vehicle. Given the length of time and the level of focus needed for such a program, individuals should not choose this option without first consulting an experienced DUI lawyer.
Following the completion of the program, the defendant must wait for two years to file a petition of nondisclosure, which blocks law enforcement from sharing the defendant’s DWI charge with the public. If there was not an ignition interlock device used for a period of at least six months, the defendant must wait five years before filing the petition. The record is ineligible for sealing if the DWI included a collision where someone else, including a passenger, was involved.
The majority of DUI cases eventually resolve through an agreement (Plea Deal) between the opposing parties. This is known as plea bargaining. Defense attorneys argue the strengths of the defendant’s case against the weaknesses of the prosecution’s.
The benefit of a plea bargain is that the final outcome of your case is agreed to ahead of time, along with the terms of your sentence. This allows you to avoid simply being at the mercy of a judge or jury.
As previously stated, this is the least likely of all outcomes, since DWI charges rarely go to trial. However, it is important to understand the process, should this situation arise.
Both the DWI attorney and the State’s prosecutor select the jury. The case will be explained to them during opening statements. The State of Texas will bring its case against the individual using available evidence and witnesses.
Your defense attorney will question witnesses and present their own case to the jury. The defendant may then testify as a witness or invoke their 5th Amendment right to not incriminate themselves. The judge will then seek a verdict from the jury. If the jury does not reach a unanimous verdict, the judge will declare a mistrial. This may be followed by a new trial on a future date with a different jury.
How you look, behave and speak in court says a lot about your maturity and character. This will impact the opinion of both the judge and jury. When it comes to presenting yourself well during trial, remember these key items.
Tips for Hearings and Court Proceedings
Come showered and shaved, with clean, well-groomed hair. Dress professionally and conservatively. Men should choose business suits, vests and slacks or a shirt and tie. Women should wear conservative skirts or business slacks.
Show Up Early
One of the worst things you can do is come late. You risk making the judge think you don’t respect his or her time and that you don’t take the charges seriously. Leaving home early also helps you navigate any traffic backups or other surprises with plenty of time.
No matter what you’re doing or who you’re talking to, speak with respect. This shows that you are a mature adult, that you will honor others and that you desire to conduct yourself with dignity. When answering questions, stay on topic and remain focused. Use proper grammar, avoid slang and never interrupt others.
The last thing you want to do is get worked up, shout, display uncontrolled behavior, make accusations, or fidget nervously. Do your best to remain calm and collected. Be conscious of your body movements and your behavior.
A DWI is a complex and stressful experience and something you cannot afford to take lightly. But if you team up with the right attorney, you will increase your chances of success considerably. An experienced lawyer will work hard, using every resource at their disposal to get you the best possible outcome.
The Law Dictionary (Black’s Law Dictionary)
What are the Requirements for a Hardship License in Texas?
Comal County Criminal District Attorney
Pretrial Diversion Program
Texas Penal Code
Title 10. Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, and Morals
CHAPTER 49. INTOXICATION AND ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE OFFENSES
Texas District and County Attorneys Association (TDCAA)
Tim Labadie: Assistant County Attorney in Travis County
Deferred Prosecution Agreements and the Public Information Act
Ben has vast experience in defending criminal cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has countless criminal charges dismissed and pled down. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.