For many first-time offenders charged with DWI, a pre-trial diversion could be a good option to keep a DWI off your record. Unfortunately, the requirements of the program can be strict and usually include obtaining an interlock device, performing community service, completing DWI-related classes and more. Most counties, including Harris County, have zero tolerance policies for using drugs or alcohol while you are completing the program. If you get caught drinking or using drugs, you will generally be kicked out of the program.
Before beginning a DWI PTI program, you should be completely honest with yourself about whether you can actually complete it. If you are kicked out of the program, you could put yourself into a worse position than if you had never done the program at all.
But what happens when you are kicked out of a DWI PTI? Generally, the contract that you signed will specify that the District Attorney’s Office can kick you out for any reason. Also, the contract will usually specify that if you are kicked out, your case will be placed back onto the docket as if there had never been a DWI PTI program.
In Harris County that means that going to trial in your DWI case could still be an option for you. Even though you may have submitted an application to begin the program, and even though that application might have asked you to describe what happened, the application probably cannot be used against you as proof of your guilt. The Texas Rules of Evidence explicitly provide that statements made during the course of plea negotiations (which includes statements made in a DWI PTI application) may not be admissible at trial. The exception is if a defendant takes the stand and testifies inconsistently with what was written in the application. For example, if a defendant wrote in the DWI PTI application that he had six drinks, but testified that he didn’t drink at all, a prosecutor might try to introduce the statement to impeach the defendant’s testimony. Although this scenario is rare in DWI trials, it is important to keep this in mind when completing the DWI PTI application.
However, other counties, like Montgomery County and San Jacinto County, actually require an explicit confession as a part of a DWI PTI that can be used as an admission of guilt that can be filed with the court and potentially used against a defendant as evidence of guilt, even if he does not testify. It is debatable whether a stipulation of evidence can be admissible for an objection that it violates the Rules of Evidence, but it is preferable to not be in that situation at all.
Successfully completing DWI PTI is a guaranteed way to keep a DWI off of your record. But because of the strict requirements involved, it is always preferable to try and obtain an outright dismissal of your DWI. If that is not possible, your attorney should ensure that you thoroughly understand the requirements of a DWI PTI and what the consequences might be if you do not complete the program successfully.
At Ceja Law Firm we see a DWI PTI as a tool in our arsenal and not a substitute for aggressively defending a case. If you are charged with DWI anywhere in the Greater Houston area, attorney Jose Ceja would be happy to offer you a free consultation to discuss your options.