DWI is one of the most frequently committed offenses in the Houston area. Most first-time DWI arrests are for misdemeanor DWI. Even still, a DWI can have a huge impact on your personal and professional life so it is important to do whatever is possible to protect your record and your driving privileges. If you have had the bad luck of being arrested and charged with DWI, this article has some suggestions on steps you should take after being arrested for DWI to improve your odds that your case will be resolved favorably with as little stress as possible.
If you have recently been charged with DWI in the Greater Houston area, and are reading this then you will have bonded out of jail. While at the jail, you were likely given a court date, along with some bond conditions that were set by a magistrate judge. It is extremely important that you obey your bond conditions and appear in court as scheduled. If you miss a court date, or do not comply with bond conditions (by failing to get an ignition interlock device, for example), your bond could be revoked and your could be put back into jail.
In Houston, your first court date after a DWI arrest will typically be within a week. At your first court date, your judge will review your bond conditions and possibly modify them (the conditions set by your magistrate judge are often standardized and don’t take the unique facts of your case into account). If you hire a DWI attorney before your first court date, your attorney can advocate on your behalf to ensure that any conditions set by the judge are not overly strict. However, as discussed below, you should not feel rushed to hire a DWI attorney as it is better to make a good choice. Even if you do not have an attorney at your first court date, your attorney can later modify any problematic bond conditions set by the court.
Request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing: Although you should not feel under pressure to rush to hire a DWI attorney, it is important that you keep the 15-day deadline to request a hearing to fight a potential administrative suspension of your driver’s license in mind. The potential suspension, known as an Administrative License Revocation (ALR), is a separate legal proceeding against your driver’s license that nearly all DWI defendants are subject to. Depending on whether you refused to give a breath or blood sample, or gave a result above the limit, your license may be subject to a 180-day or 90-day driver’s license suspension. This suspension does not happen automatically. Experienced DWI attorneys typically win ALR hearings, but in order to fight the suspension, a request to fight the hearing must be made within 15 days. It is preferable that an experienced DWI attorney make the request for an ALR hearing in writing, but if you are close to the 15-day deadline, you can make the request yourself online at this link, by calling 1-800-394-9913 or by sending a fax to 512-424-2650.
Find the right attorney for you: Next, it is critical that you find the right attorney for your case. In the Houston area, there are endless attorneys who are willing to handle your DWI case, but most do not have the experience and training to be able to maximize your chances of a dismissal or an acquittal. There are many things to keep in mind when choosing a DWI attorney. These include whether the attorney has the specialized training to handle your DWI (DWIs can be among the most technically complex criminal cases), whether your attorney actually has trial experience and familiarity with the court your case is in, whether the attorney has good communication skills, and whether the attorney is within your price range. As noted above, once you are released from jail on a DWI charge, there is no rush to hire an attorney and you should be very skeptical of attorneys who insist that they need to be hired right away. Take your time and talk to several attorneys as choosing the right attorney is a very important decision.
Follow bond conditions: As noted, the first time you go to court, you will likely be given bond conditions that you must follow throughout your case. The exact bond conditions that will be imposed in your case depend on your judge and also on the facts of your case. For example, if you gave a breath sample higher than .15, a judge is required to order that you obtain an ignition interlock device (unless the judge specifically makes a finding that it is not required in your case). Whatever bond conditions are set, it is very important that you understand them and follow them. If it is alleged that you have violated your bond conditions in a DWI case, then your bond could be revoked and you could be put in jail. Additionally, if you are on the “radar” of the judge or prosecutor because you violated your bond conditions, that could make it more difficult to obtain a favorable result in your DWI. Most bond problems in DWI cases arise when clients do not follow court orders regarding interlock or alcohol monitoring devices, are caught drinking, or are arrested again.
Be patient and trust your attorney: Properly investigating and defending a DWI in the Houston area can take 6 months or more. The first step is always for your attorney to gather the evidence. In a DWI case, the evidence includes police reports, videos, breath or blood results and documentation from the lab regarding the reliability of the breath or blood test. Once your attorney has the evidence, your attorney will be able to evaluate your case and recommend the best strategy to defend your case. DWI cases are resolved by dismissal, plea agreement or trial. The goal of a DWI should always be to get the charges dismissed or to obtain an acquittal and it is critical that your attorney contest every stage of the DWI investigation. Hiring an attorney that you can trust will allow you to entrust your DWI to your lawyer while you go on about your normal life.
Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor who has defended hundreds of DWIs throughout the Greater Houston area. Mr. Ceja has extensive training in all aspects of DWI defense that he has used to secure dismissals and “not guilty” verdicts for his clients. If you are accused of DWI anywhere in the Greater Houston area, Ceja Law Firm is an excellent choice. Contact our office today.