What Happens After A DWI Arrest In Texas
For many people, a DWI arrest is likely their only encounter with the criminal justice system. While the process can feel overwhelming, having experienced legal counsel on your side to help guide you through the system and who can let you know what to expect can help make things more manageable.
I am Chris M. “Matt” Dillon, a Bastrop-based attorney who has been helping people defend against DWI charges for more than 18 years. To find out more about how I may be able to help you, call me at 512-764-3837 to schedule an initial consultation.
Arrest And Booking
If you are placed under arrest for suspicion of DWI following a traffic stop, you will be taken to a police station or the county jail. At this point, you will be asked to submit to a Breathalyzer test. Keep in mind that you are already under arrest and will not be going home regardless of whether you submit to a test. You will then be booked into the jail and placed into a holding cell. At this point, you may be allowed to make collect phone calls. You may also have the opportunity to be released after posting bond.
Your initial court appearance is the arraignment. The judge will typically inform you of the charges against you and advise you of your rights. If you have a lawyer at this point, he or she may have the opportunity to review the state’s evidence against you. In some cases, a more formal discovery process may need to be followed.
An arraignment may take place months after your initial arrest. It is important that you do not delay seeking legal representation. Evidence may be lost if you wait until your arraignment to secure legal counsel. Few attorneys would advise taking a plea at this stage of the case, so you should expect to be assigned another date to return to court.
Other Pretrial Court Appearances
Following arraignment, you may have other court appearances depending on the progression of your case. These appearances provide additional opportunities for your lawyer and the prosecutor to discuss the case, and for your lawyer to continue to develop a strategy for moving forward. Oftentimes, the prosecutor may make a plea bargain offer at this stage of the process.
At the conclusion of the pretrial appearances, you will likely have to make a decision concerning whether you wish to accept a plea bargain or proceed to trial. Even if you are leaning toward accepting a plea, your attorney should still continue to investigate and prepare the case for trial. Frequently, a more favorable plea bargain may become available based on information gathered during a thorough investigation.
If you decide to proceed to trial, your case will be argued in front of a jury of six people if you have been charged with a misdemeanor or 12 people if you are facing felony charges. You may also request a “bench trial” where your case is argued solely before the judge. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a trial may last anywhere from one to five days. A trial is divided into several parts, including jury selection, opening remarks, the prosecution’s case, the defense’s case and closing arguments.
Punishment And Sentencing
In the unfortunate event that a jury returns a guilty verdict, the trial will shift to the punishment phase. Each side will again have the chance to make opening remarks, present their case and offer closing statements. However, the issues are limited to matters that are relevant to punishment, which may be conducted by either the judge or the jury.
The range of punishment after conviction for a first offense DWI is from three to 180 days in the county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. If you have never been convicted of a felony in Texas, in any other state, or in the federal system, then you are eligible for probation, or community supervision. Community supervision may last as long as three years. The judge will set the terms and conditions of community supervision.
If you have previous DWI convictions the potential punishments are much more severe and having experienced legal representation on your side is a must.