What is the DWI Legal Process in Houston?
The DWI legal process is actually comprised of two separate processes: 1) a criminal proceeding where you can face severe penalties (i.e. jail, fines, ignition interlock) and collateral consequences (i.e. job loss, losing your CDL, losing your CHL) and 2) an administrative proceeding where your driver’s license will be suspended unless you act quickly.
Especially in the case of first-time DWI offenders, the DWI legal process can be scary and confusing. The people you meet along the way aren’t there to teach you the process, they’re there to process you through the system as quickly as possible. They are not your friends and they are not obligated to help you in any way.
In many cases, this cloud of fear and confusion leads people to accept a guilty plea as a way to “put it behind them.”
If you take anything from this article, please know these 2 truths;
- Do NOT plead guilty – The court doesn’t care if you’re accountable and honest, they will give you the maximum penalties available with zero concern for you or your families future.
- Hire a DWI Lawyer – You have no idea how the system works or how you can potentially get a DWI case dismissed. Even if you’re one of those people who says “I did the crime so I need to be accountable”, you will put yourself in a situation where the penalties far outweigh the crime and will change your life from that point on. Don’t be naïve, the court doesn’t care.
A key benefit to hiring a DWI attorney is that they will walk you through the entire process and make everything clear. That fact alone is enough to make the first call you get to a proven Houston DWI attorney.
If you or somebody you know has been arrested for DWI, the steps below are a simplification of what you may expect as part of the DWI legal process in Houston.
If you are reading this now, you are probably familiar with the arrest process. You were stopped by a police officer who had probable cause to arrest you for DWI. They may have gained this evidence because you failed field sobriety tests or registered over a .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) on a breathalyzer test. In Texas, you may have been arrested for DWI with a BAC under .08, which is not only legal but is part of the duel definition of intoxication under Texas Penal Code 49.04 which defines “intoxicated” as:
- Not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or
- Having a BAC of 0.08 or more.
Once you are arrested, the arresting officer will read you our rights. These rights include the right to remain silent and if you were smart, this is what you did. If not, all the more reason to hire a DWI lawyer who can work on your behalf.
Getting Booked Into The System
Possibly the most harrowing part of the entire process, you are taken to jail to meet everybody else who’s been arrested that day. You are put into a holding cell and given a chance to learn more about each other until your name is finally called by a jail administrator. You are then asked a number of questions that are recorded into the police database. This includes personal information (name, address, phone, financial data, etc) which they use to look up any past arrests you may have. You are then photographed and fingerprinted and all this information goes on display as a matter of public record. For your efforts, you are then put back in holding with all your new friends, some of whom may have killed somebody that day. There you will sit until you are bonded out.
Release on Bond
In most DWI cases, you will be given the opportunity to be released on bail that is either paid entirely by you or posted by a bond company in exchange for you offering up some sort of property as collateral. Bail is money withheld by the courts as a promise that you’ll come back for your court case. If you do not return, the bail monies are forfeited and you have a warrant put out for your arrest.
In cases where you have no criminal background you may be offered release on a personal bond. While this is seen by many as a “get out of jail free” card, it also puts you on probation the moment you step out of the jail. The probation requirements are both numerous and confusing, so much so that many I’ve talked to after the fact wished they had just payed the bail amount.
You are then released with a copy of the charges against you, a notice of your administrative license revocation (ALR) and a receipt for your bond if applicable.
The ALR Hearing – Keeping Your Driver’s License & More
The administrative license revocation hearing is the administrative proceeding that was mentioned as one part of the DWI legal process. When you are arrested for A DWI, you are given a DIC-25 Notice of Suspension and Temporary Driving Permit which indicates that the Texas Department of Public Safety has begun the process to suspend your license to drive. The paperwork is deceptive at best and leads you to believe you have no options. However, if you review the REALLY small print at the bottom of page 1, you’ll see it says” You may request a hearing to contest the suspension… The request for hearing must be received by the Texas Department of Public Safety no later than 15 days after you receive or are presumed to have received notice of suspension. Failure to request a hearing within this time is a waiver of your right to a hearing”
If you don’t request a hearing, you have waived your rights and you license will be suspended 40 days after the notice of suspension. If you failed a blood or breath test it will be suspended for a period of at least 90 days and if you refused testing, you license will be suspended for at least 180 days.
The ALR Hearing can also help in your criminal case. Since the ALR hearing is a civil proceeding, your lawyer can request discovery and subpoena witnesses – such as the arresting officer. With this strategy, you can often get paperwork or unprepared witness testimony that can benefit the criminal proceeding.
The Arraignment – Keeping You Out Of Jail & Your Future Intact
In addition to addressing your ALR, you face a criminal proceeding known as an arraignment as the second part of the DWI legal process. This is your first court date and possibly the date you’ll want the services of a DWI lawyer the most. It is very intimidating. In this proceeding, you’ll hear the charges You will hear what you have been charged with, what evidence the prosecution has against you and any statutory penalties. At this time, you can plead guilty or not guilty.
There is no benefit to pleading guilty in most situations. As we mentioned before, some people say they want to be a “stand-up guy” and put the DWI behind them, but this has nothing to do with accountability and everything to do with the rest of your life. DWI Penalties are harsh, even the penalties for a first-time DWI. The collateral consequences of a DWI (Job loss, CDL loss, loss of custodial rights, etc) are often even more devastating. You can be accountable by not driving while drunk in the future and still protect you and your families’ future.
Here’s where hiring a DWI lawyer is a necessity. You should plead “not guilty” and get more time for your attorney to further investigate your case, review the evidence against you and build a strong DWI defense to either get your case dismissed or put you in a better position to negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea deal.
If you and your lawyer decide to go to trial, you will receive a trial date at which time your attorney will argue your case before judge and jury. The prosecution is required to prove each element in the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Your lawyer will challenge the evidence in an attempt to cast reasonable doubt that you are guilty of DWI, often by looking into how procedures were followed, how evidence has been handled, and other key aspects of a DWI defense. He will call witnesses that support your case and question those who are part of the prosecution’s case. Clearly, this requires a lot of skill and experience, ad should not be left in the hand’s of a court appointed attorney.
Sentencing for DWI
If the jury finds you guilty of DWI, you will have a sentencing hearing at which time a punishment is set.
Hire a DWI Attorney to Get You Through the DWI Legal Process
The DWI legal process is not a simple one. The example above is fairly common, but does not take into account any additional charges or enhanced offenses that only add to the skill and experience required to guarantee the best result for you or a loved one.
If you or a loved one have been arrested for DWI in Houston, call Clyde W. Burleson, P.C. at 713-628-1503 and have him lead your DWI defense, effectively communicate the process, walk you through what your options and get you the best result possible.