General Overview of the DWI Criminal Procedure Process
If you have been arrested and released for suspicion of DWI, you will be given a date to appear back in court (this date is usually 30 to 60 days after the arrest). The hiring of a skilled DWI attorney is crucial at this point. Once you hire a criminal defense attorney, all correspondence will go through the attorney’s office, and the attorney will ensure that all proper paperwork, motions and/or documents are filed with the court. After the arrest, the police will prepare and present their report, as well as any corroborating evidence to the District Attorney (the State). After reviewing the evidence, the State will then decide whether or not to file the case. If the State decides to go forward and file the case, it prepares an “information”, and files this with the Court. (In a Felony DWI, the case will be sent before a Grand Jury, where a “True Bill of Indictment” will be sought.) Once the information has been filed, your case is set on the Court’s docket.
Once your case has been filed and set on the Court’s docket, it will go through a series of settings. These court settings usually last between 3 and 6 months. Generally, if you have hired an attorney, you will not need to be present for these settings unless specifically directed by the Court. During these settings, your attorney will review your case, review all of the evidence, consult with the State, and help you determine the best course of action to take. Your attorney should also ensure that all proper procedure has been followed regarding your case, and that your constitutional rights were violated in any way during the arrest. Such violations may result in your attorney filing a Motion to Suppress Evidence or having the case dismissed altogether.
Your attorney should be carefully examining every aspect of your case, and discussing it with you and the State. He may obtain a plea bargain “offer” from the State, but contrary to popular belief, the State is not required to make an offer. If the State chooses to make an offer, it may include reduced or no jail time, reduced fines, probation, or even a reduced charge. Your attorney will negotiate the best deal possible based upon the facts of your case and any flaws he may find in the State’s evidence. Your attorney may advise you as to whether or not to accept the offer, but ultimately, the decision on how to proceed is entirely yours. A lawyer may not force you into any agreement to which you do not consent.
If an agreement cannot be met during this series of settings, the State will choose to either drop the case or set it for trial (It is extremely rare that the State will decide to dismiss the case at this point, so most likely the case will be set for trial). You may request a bench trial, wherein your case is presented before a Judge, or a jury trial, wherein a jury of your peers will hear the case. Your attorney may also set up hearings to discuss various issues with the court while preparing for trial. One common hearing is a Motion to Suppress Hearing, wherein your attorney may attempt to have some or all of the evidence against you thrown out if proper procedure was not followed.
Finally, if your case has not yet been disposed of, the State will proceed with trial. If you have chosen a jury trial and your case is a misdemeanor, the trial will be heard by a jury of six. If you have chosen a jury trial and your case is a felony, the trial will be heard by a jury of twelve.
Once arrested for DWI, you have 15 days to request an ALR hearing
At the ALR hearing, the petitioner will be a representative from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Your defense attorney will appear at the hearing on your behalf, and both sides will make an argument to an Administrative Law Judge employed by the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). Ross Law Offices will attend this hearing on your behalf and represent your interests in this hearing. If you win your case, your driver’s license will not be suspended. However, it is important to note that this does not end your case. The DA can, and usually will, still proceed with the filing and prosecution of the DWI charge.
If you lose this hearing, you may still be eligible to obtain an Occupational Driver’s License (ODL), which will allow you to drive to work, and perform essential household necessities. Ross Law Offices can help you in obtaining this ODL, as well.
Whether you win or lose, it is important that you request this hearing because it allows your attorney to examine the case early on, subpoena the arresting officer to the hearing, thoroughly question the arresting officer, and thus better prepare for a trial, should your case reach that point.
Contact a DWI Defense Attorney as soon as possible!
Most importantly, if you have been arrested for suspicion of DWI, do not wait to consult with an attorney. As noted, you only have 15 days to request an ALR hearing, which may keep your license from being suspended. In addition, the sooner you contact an attorney, the more time he will have to review your case and possibly keep it from being filed altogether. Contact Ross Law Offices today to schedule a free consultation.