Texas DWI Process: How to Handle DWI Charges
The Texas DWI process is not always a simple as people assume. After an arrest for a DWI (driving while intoxicated), you appear before a judge at an arraignment. Typically, this is your first court date.
Generally speaking, when this occurs depends on the circumstances of your case. For some, it happens within a day or so of the arrest. In other cases, it happens weeks or months later.
For most criminal cases, there’s not much for you to do before an arraignment. This is where the Texas DWI process differs. After a DWI arrest, you have to take quick action to contest an administrative suspension of your license.
This suspension is imposed by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. If you fail to contest it, it goes into effect automatically. When you partner with a local DWI lawyer, you have someone to walk you through this process.
Moreover, you have someone to fight to protect your rights and freedom.
Below, we cover some basic information about the DWI process in Texas. If you need expert representation, schedule a free consultation as soon as possible.
What to Do Before Your Arraignment
In Texas, implied consent laws allow the DMV to suspend the license of any driver lawfully arrested for a DWI. Additionally, this applies to drivers who refuse or fail a blood or breath test for their BAC.
Still, you have the power to fight this suspension. However, to do so, you have to request an ALR hearing within 15 days of your arrest. When you request the hearing, it puts the suspension on hold.
This means the suspension is pending based on the outcome of your hiring. When you fail to request an ALR hearing, the DMV automatically imposes the suspension. Typically, this takes effect about 30 days after your arrest.
What Happens at Your Arraignment
At your arraignment, the judge informs you of your charges and your rights. However, arraignments are more than a legal formality. If you were sent to jail after your arrest, the judge sets your bail amount or releases you without bail.
Additionally, the judge will ask what you plan to do about representation. If you do not hire your own DWI lawyer, the judge appoints a public defender to your case. Oftentimes, these public defenders are inexperienced lawyers fresh out of law school.
Then, the judge asks how you want to plea. Generally, you have three options.
- Not guilty
- No contest (nolo contendere)
While some people plead guilty to get the Texas DWI process over with (not the best idea), many enter a plea of not guilty. At this point, a plea of not guilty allows you to keep your options open.
When you want to protect your future, this is your best option.
How to Handle a DWI in Texas
After the arraignment, the next stage of the Texas DWI process is to decide how to handle your case. At this stage, the advice of an experienced DWI defense attorney is essential. Often, this boils down to two main options: bargain or fight.
However, these options aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. For many cases, criminal lawyers attempt to beat cases through pretrial motions. A common example in the Texas DWI process is a motion to suppress evidence.
If a motion doesn’t result in your favor, your attorney might also bargain to reduce your charges. Additionally, if the negotiations are unfavorable, your attorney may advise taking the case to trial.
Ultimately, your DWI attorney’s goal is to achieve the best outcome possible in your specific case.
Plea bargaining is a process in which your attorney and the prosecution attempt to reach a compromise. Essentially, this amounts to the defendant agreeing to a charge of guilt or no contest in exchange for less severe penalties.
In some cases, it’s possible to negotiate a guilty plea for a non-DWI charge. For instance, it may result in a reckless driving charge instead. The goal here is to reduce the penalties.
Typically, weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case provide the defense with a better foundation for bargaining. Conversely, your bargaining power diminishes when the evidence against you is strong.
How Trials Work
Typically, the prosecution has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases. The Texas DWI process is no different. When the prosecutor cannot adequately prove guilt, the judge or jury should acquit.
Generally speaking, DWI trials last anywhere from a few days to a week. First, the court must select a jury. Often, this takes a full day.
Then, both sides present their opening statements. This is when they tell the jury what they believe to be true as well as what evidence they will show.
Next, the meat of the trial is the presentation of evidence. Typically, the prosecution presents its evidence first, since they hold the burden of proof. For example, they might present test results that show the amount of alcohol that was in the driver’s system.
Additionally, this stage of the Texas DWI process often involves calling on the arresting officer to testify. Once the prosecution rests, your attorney presents their evidence. However, it’s common for the defense not to present any evidence.
Instead, they might work with an expert witness to gain a favorable testimony that casts doubt on BAC tests. Following the presentation of evidence, both sides make their closing arguments.
Then, the jury receives instructions on the applicable law and starts its deliberation. For many DWI cases, deliberations take less than a day. As the jurors reach a verdict, they inform the judge, who announces it to the court.
Tackle The Texas DWI Process with Expert Representation
Whether you hope to bargain or go to trial, your best bet is to have an attorney on your side. With the right legal representation, you gain guidance throughout the legal process. From the ALR hearing to negotiations to trial, you have an advocate dedicated to your future.
The Texas DWI process often results in harsh penalties for those without representation. As such it is crucial to find legal representation to handle your DWI case.