By: Justin Wilson
While the facts of every DWI investigation have their own unique nuances, in general, DWIs follow a predictable process. The following outlines this process after an arrest through the disposition of a case.
After you have been arrested and booked on a charge of DWI, you will be held in a jail facility. Some cities, such as Plano and Frisco, have their own jails and will hold you there overnight before transferring you to the Collin County Jail the next day. Other cities, such as McKinney, do not have their own jails and will transfer arrestees directly to the county facility. There, you will wait until a judge can see you to set a bond and attach conditions to that bond. This process may require you to spend one or two nights in jail. Once the judge has set your bond, someone can either pay the full amount of the bond in cash (cash bond), or the individual can pay 10% to a bail bondsman (surety bond). The key difference here is that, in a cash bond, once your case is disposed, the cash amount will be returned or it can be applied to court costs and fines. With a surety bond, the bail bondsman keeps the 10% paid as income.
Attorney Writ Bond
There is another option if you do not want to wait in jail until the judge sees you – an Attorney Writ Bond. If you are arrested for DWI, you can contact a Collin County DWI attorney and for a fee, the attorney will drive to the jail, meet with someone there on your behalf, and file the necessary paperwork. Once the paperwork is processed, you will be released from jail.
About a week later the attorney who executed the writ bond for you will meet you at the courthouse and represent you in a bond condition hearing. Typically, the judge will require you to abstain from alcohol, submit to random urinalysis, and may require you to have a deep-lung ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle. Typically, in Collin County, the courts will require you to install an ignition interlock device on any car that you own or operate if your alcohol concentration is a .15 or greater, or there was a car accident, or if you are accused of committing a second or greater offense of DWI. Once the hearing is complete, you will remain on bond as long as you comply with all the conditions.
Once you are arrested for a DWI, the law enforcement officer is required to give you written notice that your license will be suspended. Generally, this is done in the back of the patrol vehicle or in an intoxilyzer room at the jail. Once the officer gives you the written notice, the clock starts ticking. You have 15 days from the time notice is given to request your Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
If you voluntarily submitted a specimen that was .08 or more, your license will be subject to a 90-day suspension, assuming you have no previous “alcohol related law enforcement contacts.” If you refused to submit a specimen, your license will be subject to a 180-day suspension. Again, this assumes that there are no prior contacts. Previous convictions or alcohol related suspensions may have the effect of increasing the length of the suspension. In order to avoid the ALR suspension you must request an ALR hearing. By hiring a Collin County criminal defense attorney, he or she can request your hearing and file all the necessary paperwork and subpoenas. Your presence is not required at the ALR hearing.
At the hearing, your attorney will be able to cross examine the officer involved in your case. From time to time, the officer will not show up. If that happens your license will not be suspended, if the officer was under a subpoena issued and served by your attorney. If the officer appears in court, then an administrative law judge will review the police report, consider the officer’s testimony under cross examination, and make a decision regarding whether your license will be suspended.
During ALR hearings, the State has a lower burden of proof than at trial. The attorney you hired may petition the court to grant you an Occupational Driver’s License (ODL). An ODL will allow you to legally drive your vehicle for work and other necessities during certain hours of the day. If your license is suspended and you drive without an ODL, you risk arrest for a Class B Misdemeanor for driving with a suspended license. Once the 90 or 180 days have elapsed, your license will be reinstated.
If you do not request a hearing, the suspension automatically goes into effect on the 40th day after the Notice of Suspension was served. The length of the suspension, as noted above, will be 90 days if you submitted a breath or blood specimen with an alcohol concentration above .08, or it will be 180 days if you refused to submit a specimen.
Filing Your Case
It can take several months for the police agency to file your case with the District Attorney’s Office. If they took your blood, it may take even longer for your case to be filed because the DPS Garland Crime Lab will have to test your blood for its alcohol concentration. If law enforcement suspects intoxication due to drugs, they will send your blood to the DPS Austin Crime Lab, which will take even longer. Once the police agency files your case, if it is a misdemeanor, an intake prosecutor will make the decision to accept your case. If your DWI is a felony, then your case will go before the grand jury for secret deliberations. If the grand jury finds probable cause, it will issue a True Bill of Indictment. If the grand jury does not find probable cause, then it will issue a No-Bill, and your case will go no further.
If your case is accepted or indicted, it will be assigned to a court, and you will receive notice by mail of your first appearance. You must show up to your first appearance. If you do not, courts will usually give you a few days to check-in, but if you do not, the court will forfeit your bond and issue a warrant for your arrest. During this first appearance, your attorney will meet with the prosecutors, receive copies of the evidence the State has against you, and will let you know the State’s initial offer.
After the first appearance, your attorney will review all the evidence and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the State’s case. Your attorney, and likely you, will have to appear at subsequent court settings called announcements. These announcements are work sessions where your attorney will negotiate with the State and discuss any outstanding evidentiary issues. Once you have had the maximum number of announcements for the respective court, you will have to set your case for a plea or trial.
The Decision to Plea or Go to Trial
Your attorney will advise you about the strengths and weaknesses of the State’s case and all the possible outcomes. If your attorney has found that the police officer may have performed an unlawful search or seizure, they can file a motion to suppress. The motion to suppress hearing is like a mini-trial. The State usually calls the primary officer to testify. Your attorney will cross examine all witnesses. The scope of the testimony will be limited to the point where the unlawful search or seizure occurred. Then the attorneys will make legal arguments based on case law as to the legality of the search or seizure. If the judge grants your motion to suppress, then all evidence gathered after the unlawful act is suppressed. If the judge denies your motion, you can still plea or take your case to trial.
If you decide to plead guilty, you will either serve time in a detention facility, or the court will suspend your sentence for a certain number of months or years of community supervision. If placed on community supervision, you will have to complete a number of conditions and not violate the terms of your probation. If you have any violations or fail to complete the conditions, you risk having your probation revoked.
If you decide to plead not guilty, your case will go to trial. A jury or the judge alone will hear the evidence. The State has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To meet this burden, the State will usually bring officers, nurses, intoxilyzer operators, blood analysts, and sometimes 911 callers to testify against you. You do not have to present any evidence. Your attorney will cross examine the State’s witnesses. You will decide, based on your attorney’s advice, whether or not to testify. Your attorney may call any other witnesses who will be helpful to your case. Both sides will make closing arguments, and the judge or jury will determine if the State has met its burden.
If you are found not guilty, you will be eligible for an immediate expunction to wipe the arrest from your record. In addition, if your driver’s license was suspended as a result of an ALR suspension arising from the same case, you are entitled to have that suspension rescinded by the Department of Public Safety. If you are convicted, you will move into the punishment phase of your trial. Prior to the trial, you will decide if you want a jury or the court to assess punishment upon your conviction. You will either serve time or be placed on community supervision. Either way, the court will send notice of your conviction to DPS, and DPS may suspend your license again. For first offense DWI cases, if you are placed on community supervision (probation) and you complete the DWI Education Class in a timely manner, you will not suffer an additional driver’s license suspension based on the conviction. If that happens, your attorney can petition for another ODL so that you can drive legally for work and life obligations.
At Rosenthal & Wadas bold strategies and aggressive defense techniques are used to fight DWI charges from start to finish. Clearing your name is our number one priority. Contact our office 972-369-0577 for a free consultation and to learn how we provide personalized legal representation for all of our clients. We believe in your case and will fight to protect you. It is at the heart of everything we do.