If you recently received a DWI charge, the following information may end up saving your job, your career, and even your housing. It is essential first to understand the distinction between DWI (also known as driving while intoxicated) and DUI, which the state defines as driving under the influence.
Understanding DWI and DUI Charges in Texas
It’s important to understand the difference between a DUI vs DWI in Texas. Texas charges anyone over the age of 21 arrested for impaired driving with DWI. If you’re a minor and have any detectable amount of alcohol in your system, you can be charged with a DUI. The penalties for minors charged with DUI are much less harsh than being accused of a DWI.
What is the Penalty of a DWI in Texas
It’s important to note that a minor can be charged with either a DUI or DWI, but only an adult can be charged with a DWI in the state of Texas. Other states like Arizona have DUIs for adults, which corresponds to a BAC level greater than zero but below 0.08.
The attitude towards DWIs in the state of Texas has changed dramatically since the mid-80s and with the advent of MADD: Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In response to public pressure, the legislature enacted changes roughly three decades ago that increased penalties and employed harsher penalties on criminal defendants charged with DWI.
The thought process was that stricter penalties and harsher punishments would reduce drinking and driving in Texas. Since then, however, the state of Texas has arrested hundreds of thousands of people and convicted them of driving while intoxicated, so it seems the harsher penalties have done little concerning reducing the number of people drinking and driving in Texas.
For a first offense DWI in Texas, you may be sentenced up to six months in jail and fined up to $2,000. You may also lose your driver’s license for up to 180 days and be subject to additional fines and court costs, commonly around $10,000.
Many factors go into the punishment of a DWI charge if you are convicted. These factors can include:
- Your age
- Your physical health
- Your employment background
- Professional licenses that you may hold
- Prior criminal history
- Whether or not an accident was involved
- Whether or not the charge involved dangerous driving
- Whether or not you injured anyone as a result of your driving
With so many factors to consider, the range of punishments upon conviction is vast, almost by default.
The purpose of this article is to teach you ways in which you can avoid a conviction for driving while intoxicated. The state of Texas must bring charges against you for driving while intoxicated within two years of the date of the offense. If you are not charged by an information within two years, the case is barred from proceeding under the statute of limitations. This is an important factor and one frequently overlooked by defense attorneys who are not experts in the area of DWI law.
In today’s world, especially in big cities, most DWI arrests result in either giving a breath test specimen or applying a warrant to draw your blood. Due to the sheer number of arrests where police officers request warrant blood-draws, the volume of testing at accredited labs has become very backlogged. In instances where the state fails to bring charges within a timely fashion, an experienced DWI lawyer will file a motion to have the charges rejected due to the state’s failure to file within the statute of limitations.
Possible consequences of a DWI include:
- A jail sentence for up to 180 days.
- A fine up to $2,000.
- Being placed on community supervision for a term up to two years.
Standard terms of community supervision include performing community service hours, attending classes on alcohol and intoxication, and/or having some form of alcohol monitoring device either equipped on your vehicle or person. Additionally, the state can restrict your freedom to travel, and you are subject to random drug and alcohol testing throughout the term of your probation (which, of course, you get to pay for!).
How Long Does a DWI Stay On Your Record?
Not only are the penalties for DWI in Texas some of the harshest in the country, if you’re convicted of a DWI in Texas, it’s a permanent conviction on your record. That means it stays on there forever. To remove a DWI charge from your record, you should hire an experienced DWI attorney who is familiar with the laws in the state of Texas and all the possible ways to prevent a DWI conviction.
Getting DWI Charges Reduced Or Dismissed
However, all hope is not lost, as there are four specific ways in which a DWI charge can be expunged from your record.
- If you are eligible and the county where you were arrested offers it, a pre-trial diversion program is an option. If completed, the pre-trial diversion would allow the DWI to be dismissed, and you would be eligible at that point to expunge it off of your record. Diversion programs do not exist in every county, nor is every person arrested for a first-offense DWI eligible. You should always speak with an experienced DWI attorney before making an election to pursue a pre-trial diversion program.
- If negotiations between your lawyer and the state result in a dismissal of DWI charges, you would be eligible to expunge the charge from your record after waiting a predetermined time of two years (the statute of limitations regarding expunging the case).
- An experienced DWI attorney knows to look at all the case facts and evaluate whether the officer legally stopped and arrested an individual. Experienced DWI attorneys know the law. If they believe an instance has occurred where a police officer did not observe a traffic law to stop a vehicle, they will file a motion to suppress with the court. Suppose the judge agrees with the defense counsel‘s motion to suppress evidence based upon the officer not having a valid legal reason for the stop. In that case, the judge can order all evidence to be excluded, and thus the state would have no choice but to dismiss the case.
- If you’re found not guilty by a jury or judge in the driving while intoxicated case, your case is eligible for expungement. An additional benefit being that the filing fees associated with an expungement are waived if filed within the first 30 days after a not-guilty verdict.
Getting DWI charges dismissed or reduced is the primary goal of an experienced DWI attorney. Knowing the right questions to ask, the correct law on the subject, and the way to properly evaluate the evidence against an individual is crucial in determining whether or not you’ll be able to get a DWI charge off of your record.
If you’re looking to beat a DWI charge in the state of Texas, be prepared to…
Wait! The process can take a very long time. Typical cases average a year in length or longer. While patiently waiting isn’t always comfortable, we can’t rush the courts. It’ll take time.
Listen to what your attorney says. Follow their instructions and heed any advice that they may give you for the duration of your case. While they should evaluate each case explicitly before determining the correct course of action, your attorney may ask you to take alcohol classes, have an alcohol monitoring device, or provide employment verification.
Experienced DWI lawyers know what the state is looking for and, just as necessary, what the state is not looking for with regard to mitigating factors that can help in defense of your DWI case.
Always be truthful in talking with your attorney. If they do not know the correct facts on the case, you’ll put them in a detrimental situation when defending and arguing on your behalf.
What Can Negatively Affect Chances of a DWI Dismissal?
Several specific things can negatively affect the chances of getting your DWI dismissed. These factors include:
- Getting re-arrested for an alcohol-related offense while your DWI case is pending.
- Driving with a suspended license.
- Having alcohol-related violations on an alcohol monitoring device, including IID, PAM, and/or SCRAM.
- Failing to show up for court settings properly.
- Testing positive for drugs or alcohol while you’re out on bond.
Naming the cost of having a DWI charge dismissed in Texas is as complicated or as simple as saying what a house costs. Everyone knows houses can cost only a few thousand dollars, or beyond $100 million. The details of each case, the judge’s requirements, the prosecution’s requests, required classes/devices, the county… all of these details can contribute to the cost of completing the case.
Rate of DWI Charges Dismissed in Texas
The dismissal rates also vary widely depending upon the county of arrest. In Travis County, for example, DWI conviction rates were approximately 25% (75% dismissal) until police and law-enforcement moved to mandatory blood testing about ten years ago. Conviction rates have skyrocketed since the advent of compulsory blood testing, thus resulting in a much lower dismissal rate for DWIs as a whole. It’s more important than ever to hire an experienced DWI attorney to have the best possible chance of receiving a DWI dismissal.
Hire an Expert Texas Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, don’t hesitate to contact experienced criminal defense attorney James Gill today for DWI help. Defending citizens accused of driving while intoxicated or controlled substance charges has been James Gill’s primary practice since 2005.
Call 512-448-4560 today to schedule a consultation. Austin Criminal Lawyer James Gill serves all of Austin, Westlake, Kyle, Buda, San Marcos, and the surrounding Texas communities.