DWI attorney consulting with a woman

What is the role of a DWI lawyer?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

If you have been arrested for DWI, the outcome of your case will be largely decided by the facts of your arrest. Although you can’t change the facts of your case, what is in your control is the legal representation that you choose. Choosing the right lawyer can have a huge impact on a DWI case and understanding the role of a DWI lawyer can help you make the right decision and ask the right questions when you interview the attorney.

A DWI lawyer can be thought of as a guide who should be there for you to assist at every stage of your case. Very often, this begins when you are in jail and a family member contacts the DWI lawyer to attempt to gain information about the bonding process and when you will be released from jail. Once you are released from jail, a DWI lawyer should meet with your and prepare you for what you can expect at your first court date, which is typically scheduled a few days after you are released from jail (in most counties in the Houston area, the magistrate judge that you see in jail after a DWI arrest will not be the judge who is assigned to your case). 

Although nothing directly related to the outcome of your DWI case will take place at your first court setting, a DWI lawyer should appear with you and advocate on your behalf regarding any bond conditions the judge might want to set. In order to effectively advocate on your behalf, a DWI attorney should take the time to understand the facts of your case and your life and work situation. For example, if you drive a work vehicle, installing an ignition interlock on your work vehicle may make it impossible for you to work, and it is important that a DWI attorney do whatever is possible to convince the judge to not order the device. 

In most DWI cases, after the first court setting, your DWI attorney will largely be focused on two tasks – obtaining the evidence in your case, and handling any potential driver’s license hearing. In order to be able to evaluate your case, and the best approach to obtain an excellent result, your DWI attorney will need to obtain all of the evidence, including police reports, videos, breath or blood test results and documentation from the police lab regarding the accuracy and reliability of the breath or blood test. In the Houston area, the process of obtaining complete evidence in a DWI case can sometimes take 6 months or more. But this is a necessary step to maximizing your chance of obtaining an excellent result in a case. 

While your attorney is collecting evidence from the prosecutor, he will also be handling your driver’s license hearing. In Texas, most DWIs are subject to a separate administrative driver’s license suspension known as an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) case.  If you have been arrested for DWI, you will have a potential ALR suspension of 90 days if you had a breath or blood result of .08 or higher, or a 180-day suspension if you refused to provide a breath or blood sample. Although an ALR case has no direct effect on your DWI, the ALR case involves the same witnesses and evidence and can be a valuable source of information to defend the DWI. In the Houston area, most ALR cases are resolved within approximately 4 months, although the resolution has no impact on your DWI. 

Once the evidence in your DWI has been received, your attorney should take the time to evaluate the case with you. In order to effectively challenge a DWI and maximize your chances of getting the case dismissed, a DWI attorney should challenge every stage of the investigation. This includes the reason for the traffic stop or detention, the police’s investigation and administration of balance tests, whether the police fairly and properly advised you of your rights, the validity and admissibility of any breath or blood test and the officer’s conclusion that you were intoxicated should all be challenged. Each of these topics is highly complex and a DWI attorney should have extensive training to be able to identify issues with the case against you. 

Any DWI case will be resolved by either dismissal, trial, or plea agreement. Of course, the goal of any DWI case is the dismissal of the charges against you. It should be the goal of an experienced DWI attorney to obtain a dismissal of the case by finding a major problem with the case that forces the prosecutor to dismiss the case (in a DWI case, only the prosecutor can dismiss the case). But of course, not every DWI case will be dismissed.

If your case is not dismissed, you will have to choose between a trial and a plea agreement. In this situation, it will be the role of a DWI lawyer to advise you on what the best course of action is, and explain why. In order to be able to properly advise you, a DWI attorney should understand how a DWI conviction could affect you personally or professionally, since understanding the consequences will be necessary to properly evaluate risk. If you are not a United States citizen, in order to be able to fully understand the consequences of a conviction, it may be necessary to speak with an immigration attorney regarding the consequences of a particular plea agreement of a DWI conviction. 

If you choose to go to trial, an experienced DWI attorney can help you maximize your chances of an acquittal. The reality is that although many attorneys handle DWI cases, very few are actual trial attorneys who have the knowledge and experience to go to trial. Unfortunately, many attorneys avoid going to trials and would rather pressure a client into accepting a plea, even if it is not in the client’s best interest. 

Although the facts of a case can never be changed, the right lawyer can make all of the difference in a DWI case. Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor who has spent hundreds of hours studying the specialized police procedure and science involved in DWI investigations. If you are arrested for 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.
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