By the time you get charged with a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) in Texas, the State is already working on your conviction.
It could mean jail time, a huge fine, a suspension of your driver’s license, and a lifelong criminal conviction.
This may all be avoidable if you understand what to do when you’re charged with a DWI in Texas.
So, here we take you through the key steps to take from the time you’re arrested until your hearing in court.
1. Understand DWI laws in Texas
Every driver who consumes alcohol at all should know the DWI laws (and DUI laws – they’re different!) before they head out on the roads.
The severity of the laws generally depends on whether you’re being charged with a first-time offense or a repeat offense.
We’ll assume that most people reading this are first-time offenders who don’t yet understand the laws or the legal processes.
A first time DWI offense is classified as a Class A or Class B Misdemeanor, depending on the blood alcohol concentration. Penalties include:
- Up to 365 days in jail
- Up to a $4,000 fine
- A Texas Driver’s License suspension of up to 2 years
- DPS fees in excess of $3,000
- An alcohol monitoring device installed in vehicles and elsewhere
- A lifelong criminal conviction
The good news is that there is a high burden of proof for a conviction, as defined by the Texas Penal Code Title 10 Chapter 49.
Accordingly, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were:
- Operating a motor vehicle, and
- In a public place
More about that a little later.
2. Assert your constitutional rights when arrested
The first thing you do if you’re arrested on suspicion of a DWI in Texas is to immediately assert your constitutional rights.
This is a simple but critical step. Ask for an attorney if you’re asked questions by the police beyond your name, date of birth, and address.
Remember that anything you say may act as evidence against you, so beware of providing information without the presence of a lawyer.
Also, don’t agree to any field sobriety or blood/breath tests without your lawyer present.
After being arrested for DWI, an officer must read you the DIC 24 statutory warning and you must answer YES or NO afterward.
You cannot be forced to take a breath test but refusal to do so may result in immediate license suspension. That may still better than hard evidence against you for being intoxicated.
Your refusal also forces the State to further communicate what they’re looking for, why, and what they intend to do with the evidence. This can create important grounds for challenges later in proceedings, as you will see in point 4.
The procedure after you refuse tests will largely depend on which state of Texas the offense takes place in.
If you’re already in the process of getting in touch with your DWI lawyer, seek their advice from that point onwards.
3. Hire a skilled DWI attorney
The stakes involved in a DWI charge are high, as you’ve seen.
A good DWI attorney will provide the best possible chance of fighting any charges.
Do your research and find an attorney who is not only affordable but who is:
- Experience in DWI cases in Texas
- Backed up by excellent reviews from multiple clients that they’ve helped
- Able to demonstrate a clear track record of success in such cases
4. Arrange bond with your attorney
It’s likely that you will be released on bond if you’re facing a DWI charge. This may be:
- A Personal Recognizance (PR) bond
- A bail bond through a bail bondsman, or
- An attorney bond
If it’s your first DWI charge, this should be a relatively simple process.
For repeat offenders or those with an enhanced DWI charge (due to an exceptionally high blood-alcohol content, for instance), there may be additional requirements for bond. These may include having ignition interlocks fitted to your vehicle or agreeing to frequent drug testing.
5. Work with your attorney on case dismissal
If you’re charged with DWI in Texas, you can’t get deferred adjudication (unlike a person facing a driving under the influence or DUI charge).