Police lights

What are the chances my DWI will be dismissed?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

The truth is that almost everyone who drinks has at one time or another been behind the wheel after having consumed too much alcohol. This is especially true in a city like Houston, where it is typically necessary to drive places. Most people who have driven while intoxicated on occasion will probably never be caught. According to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the average drunk driver has driven drunk over 80 times before being caught

Whether this statistic is true or not, if you have been arrested for DWI, you may be wondering what your chances are of beating your case. To keep a DWI off of your record, you will have to either get it dismissed, or go to trial and win. While getting an acquittal at trial (also known as a verdict of “not guilty”) is an excellent result, most people would prefer to get their case dismissed as it is quicker than trial, and does not carry the risk of a conviction. But what are the chances a DWI will be dismissed? 

No attorney can predict exactly how your DWI case will be resolved or tell you what your exact chances are of getting your case dismissed. However, in the Houston area, DWIs are dismissed every day. A DWI can be dismissed where there is a factual or legal problem with a case, or where a defendant works out a deal for dismissal with the District Attorney, such as a pre-trial diversion. 

The first reason for dismissal of a DWI – a legal or factual problem – relates to whether prosecutors can prove the elements of their case. In a DWI case, like all criminal cases, it is the burden of the State of Texas to establish that all of the elements of a crime are present. 

In a DWI, for example, prosecutors need to show that you were stopped for a valid reason, that officers developed enough evidence to arrest you, that a breath or blood test was legally obtained, and that you were intoxicated. In some cases, an experienced DWI attorney can create a legal problem with the case by convincing a judge that some portion of the stop – like the traffic stop – was not valid, and that evidence should be suppressed. In some cases, proving that the officers violated the rights of a defendant in a DWI can lead to a dismissal because the law says that prosecutors cannot introduce any evidence gained as a result of the illegal traffic stop. 

A factual problem typically relates to whether prosecutors can prove some element of a DWI case, like the element of intoxication. For example, if a defendant does not appear intoxicated, and there was no breath or blood test, or the breath or blood test is questionable, then prosecutors might dismiss the case because they cannot prove the element of intoxication. Experienced DWI attorneys should work to develop both legal and factual problems with the case by closely examining all evidence in a DWI, including police reports, accident reports, videos, breath or blood results, and documents from the lab that can help determine whether the result is reliable. 

A dismissal due to a factual or legal problem with the case is usually the best result in a DWI because (unlike pre-trial diversions, which are discussed below) the dismissal would typically be unconditional. For example, if your DWI attorney establishes that the police violated your rights during a DWI arrest, and that as a result, key pieces of evidence cannot be used against you, then your DWI could be dismissed without any additional requirements. 

Because DWI cases are highly technical, it is always advisable to hire an experienced DWI attorney who can challenge all aspects of a DWI case. It is often said that although most DWIs are misdemeanors, they can be some of the most technically challenging cases for criminal defense attorneys, as they involve specialized police procedure and the science of breath and blood testing. 

If you case is not dismissed because of a legal or factual problem, then one alternative to consider is a pre-trial intervention program. In a DWI case, a pre-trial intervention program is a contract with the State of Texas that a case will be dismissed if certain conditions are met. These conditions can include DWI-related classes, community service and an ignition interlock on your vehicle. A pre-trial diversion program in a DWI case is a lot like being on probation, except that the charges against you are dismissed if you complete everything that is asked of you. 

The terms of a pre-trial diversion in a DWI case are set by the District Attorney and vary from county to county. In some counties, there are very strict requirements to be eligible to apply for a DWI PTI, such as no accident, no refusal of a breath or blood test, and no results higher than a .15. Other counites, such as Harris County, are more flexible and depending on the facts, are willing to consider PTIs in some DWIs involving accidents, high breath tests, or defendants with minor criminal history. An attorney experienced with handling DWIs in the Greater Houston area should be familiar with the requirements of a PTI in a particular county.

In a DWI case, the facts or your arrest will largely determine the outcome. But this does not mean that  it does not matter which attorney you hire. An experienced DWI attorney will likely be able to identify and develop a variety of issues that could help you obtain the best possible result in your case. If you are charged with DWI anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.
Posted in DWI