Houston DWI Defense Attorney

Police officer administering the pen DWI test

Houston Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Attorney

Every month hundreds of people in the Houston area are arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Enforcement of DWIs in Houston is aggressive and it is easy to find yourself charged even if you were not intoxicated. If you are arrested for DWI, it is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable and aggressive DWI attorney as quickly as possible. In addition to the potential for jail time and steep fines, your license could likely be suspended unless action is taken within 15 days. DWIs are highly specialized cases and it is important to hire an attorney with the training and experience to maximize your chances of keeping a DWI off of your record. If you or a loved one has been charged with DWI in Houston or the surrounding areas, call Ceja Law Firm for a free consultation. 

Why Our Houston Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Lawyer Is Right for You

At Ceja Law Firm we have an outstanding record of both dismissals and acquittals at trial, as well as obtaining expunctions for DWI cases. Mr. Ceja began his career as a drug prosecutor and has defended over a thousand DWIs. He is certified to administer the same Standardized Field Sobriety Tests used by police and has spent hundreds of hours studying the science behind breath and blood alcohol testing, including at the renowned Axion Lab in Chicago. 

Because of his credentials, Mr. Ceja is extraordinarily well-prepared to challenge every aspect of a DWI investigation, including the reliability of field sobriety tests and the accuracy of breath or blood tests. This gives him – and you – an important edge in the courtroom.

How Are DWIs Charged In Texas?

Under Texas Penal Code 49.04, Driving While Intoxicated is defined as driving a vehicle in a public place while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. Under Texas law, “intoxication” is defined as the loss of normal use of mental or physical faculties, or a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more at the time of driving (it is important to remember that prosecutors must present evidence of what your blood alcohol level would have been at the time of driving, not the time of the test). 

In a DWI investigation the police will attempt to show that a person lost the “normal use” of their mental or physical faculties based on their observations of the suspect, including their performance on police balance tests. In order to show that a person was above the legal limit of .08, it will be necessary for police to obtain a breath or blood test, which is a standard part of almost all DWIs charged in the Houston area. 

Depending on the facts, DWI can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. A first-time DWI arrest is typically a Class “B” misdemeanor unless there is a high breath or blood score or certain other aggravating factors that could result in a felony charge. A DWI can be a felony where there are two prior DWI convictions, an accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury or a child passenger. If the defendant is alleged to have had a blood result higher than .15, a first-time DWI can be charged as a Class “A” misdemeanor. 

You Rights After a DWI Arrest 

If you are arrested for DWI, the most important right that you have is your right to remain silent. In many cases, after being detained, the police will attempt to question you regarding the alleged offense, where you were coming from, and what you drank. This information could all be used against you later on, for example, to prove what your blood alcohol content might have been at the time of driving. It is important to remember that you never have to speak to the police or give evidence of any kind against yourself. During a DWI investigation, the best approach is typically to identify yourself and provide your driver’s license, but politely refuse to answer questions. You are likely being recorded and your behavior at the scene will later be closely analyzed for signs of intoxication. 

One common question is whether or not it is a good idea to exercise your right to refuse a breath test. After being arrested for DWI, the police will ask you for a breath or blood test. In the Houston area, for most first-time DWI arrests, the police will request a breath test since it is easier and provides instant results. If you refuse a breath test, your license could be subject to a longer suspension and the police will likely obtain a warrant to obtain your blood. Most of the time, it is preferable to consent to breath test due to the fact that the police will likely get your blood, which is more accurate and you will be subject to a longer potential driver’s license suspension. Additionally, if your case goes to trial, it is good for your attorney to be able to argue that you have nothing to hide and cooperate with the police. 

DWI Offenses and Penalties

All DWI-related offenses are serious, but the severity of penalties is determined by a number of factors. Most first-time DWIs are Class B misdemeanors unless the breath or blood result is .15 or higher, in which case the charge is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor. A second DWI is also treated as a Class “A” misdemeanor.

Depending on the facts and the criminal history of the defendant, a DWI could be charged as a felony. This includes any DWI with a child passenger (even a first DWI), DWI third offenses, or DWIs involving serious bodily injury or death, known as intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter.

The consequences of a DWI can include:

  • Fines that get higher as the offense worsens
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle as a condition of bond or probation
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Jail or prison for varying lengths of time
  • Attendance at a court-ordered alcohol and substance abuse course
  • Community service
  • Probation, which may demand sobriety, periodic check-ins, restricted travel, etc.

Apart from the direct consequences of an arrest or conviction, a DWI arrest can also affect you in other ways. The “secondary” consequences of a DWI arrest or conviction can include increased insurance premiums, ineligibility for certain types of employment or professional licenses, negative impact on custodial rights, or difficulty renting a home or apartment. If you are convicted of a felony DWI, your voting rights and right to own a firearm could be impacted. 

Preventing License Suspension After a DWI

If you were arrested for DWI and refused to provide a breath or blood sample (known as a “refusal”), or provided a sample higher than the legal limit of .08 (known as a “failure”) the Department of Public Safety will attempt to suspend your driving privileges for either 180 days for a refusal, or 90 days for a failure. The suspension periods can be significantly longer if you have had a DWI in the past.

Jose Ceja has handled hundreds of ALR hearings and successfully prevents the suspension of the vast majority of his clients’ driver’s licenses. To begin the process of fighting the suspension, a request for an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing must be made within 15 days of your being served with the notice of suspension or revocation (this typically occurs on the date of your arrest). 

Due to the rules that control ALR hearings, it is likely that the officers involved in the case must be served with a subpoena to attend the hearing. As a result, ALR hearings frequently provide an opportunity for the defense to gain valuable information that can be used to defend the criminal case. Because the rules for ALR hearings are specialized it is wise to have an experienced firm like Ceja Law Firm handle it on your behalf.

DWI Defense Tactics

Although most DWIs are filed as misdemeanors, they are more specialized and technically complex than many felonies and require a high level of expertise to defend effectively. In general, the most effective defense strategy is to thoroughly and aggressively challenge every stage of the police’s investigation, including the traffic stop or detention, the police officer’s investigation, the validity and accuracy of a breath or blood test, the validity of any search warrant or legal warnings, and the officer’s conclusion that the driver was intoxicated.

The goal of a DWI should be to protect your freedom, your record and your driving privileges. Due to the fact that DWIs are highly specialized, it is important to hire an attorney with the training and background to defend your case and challenge the State’s evidence. Unless a DWI attorney has experience with breath and blood testing, for example, it will be very difficult for the attorney to effectively challenge the validity of a breath or blood test. 

Can I Get My DWI Dismissed?

It is absolutely possible to get your DWI dismissed. Although no attorney can predict or guarantee what will happen with your case, a dismissal is more likely by having an experienced attorney with a clear plan – and a backup plan – to obtain the best possible outcome. In most cases, the first step should be to attack the evidence in the case. For example, if an attorney proves that a traffic stop that led to a DWI arrest was illegal, or that a search warrant for blood was defective, the case could be dismissed. 

If your case is not dismissed because of a factual problem with the case, your attorney may still be able to negotiate a dismissal of the charges through an agreement with prosecutors. In some counties in the Houston area, District Attorney’s offices offer programs for many first-time DWI offenders that can lead to the dismissal of the charges if the programs are completed successfully. But before considering any program or agreement (which can sometimes require an admission of guilt and include criminal penalties if not completed successfully), it is the attorney’s responsibility to first challenge the facts of the case. 

DWI Pre-Trial Intervention Programs

If you are arrested for DWI in Houston, it is possible that you are eligible for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Pre-Trial Intervention Program. This program is essentially a contract with the District Attorney’s Office that your case will be dismissed if certain conditions are met. The program typically involves classes, fees, community service and the installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. It is typically only available to defendants with no criminal history, who were not involved in an accident, and do not have a high breath or blood score. 

This program is a good “backup” plan for many first-time DWIs since it offers a guaranteed path to the dismissal of a DWI. However, it is still very important for your attorney to first challenge the evidence of a case and work to obtain a dismissal based on legal or factual problems with a case. Unfortunately, too many attorneys do minimal work to fight the case if they believe pre-trial diversion may be an option. 

Can I obtain an expunction of a DWI arrest?

In Texas, an expunction is the best possible result of a DWI arrest as it results in all records of the arrest being destroyed and legally permits a person to deny the existence of the arrest in most cases (on a job application, for example). It is possible to obtain an expunction of a DWI, but generally only if the case is dismissed or you are found “not guilty” at trial. If you are assessed any type of probation for a DWI (even a deferred adjudication), it is not possible to obtain an expunction of a DWI arrest. An expunction should be the ultimate goal after a DWI. At Ceja Law Firm, we regularly help our clients obtain expunctions of DWI cases after dismissals or acquittals. 

What happens if an undocumented person is arrested for DWI in Houston?

In the Houston area, it is very common for undocumented people to be arrested for DWI. Whenever an undocumented person goes to jail, there is always a risk that the person will be issued an “immigration hold.” An immigration hold is a type of detention issued by an immigration official at the jail that will prevent an undocumented person from being released from jail, even if they post bond. Fortunately, in most misdemeanor DWIs in the Houston area, it is very rare for an undocumented person to be given an immigration hold. However, it is very important that an attorney ensure that the person avoid going to jail again to avoid the risk of an immigration hold. 

Whenever a person who is not a citizen is charged with a crime, including DWI, it is important that they consult with an immigration attorney regarding the immigration consequences of an arrest or conviction. With a non-citizen client, one of the most important goals is that the criminal case does not negatively impact a client’s immigration case. At Ceja Law Firm, we work closely with immigration attorneys to ensure that a DWI arrest will not jeopardize our clients’ legal status. 

When to Contact an Attorney

After a DWI arrest, it is important to consult with an experienced DWI attorney as quickly as possible so you can understand the process, your options and obtain some peace of mind. It is also important to remember that you likely only have 15-days to make a request to fight your driver’s license suspension (it is possible to make this request on your own but it is usually preferable for you attorney make the request for you). 

Although it is a good idea to have an attorney at your first court date, generally nothing bad will happen if you appear at your first court date without a lawyer and you should be wary of high-pressure sales tactics from any attorney. There is a lot to consider when choosing a DWI attorney so it is wise to do your research and find the best attorney to handle your case. 

If you have been arrested for DWI anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation. Ceja Law Firm handles DWI cases throughout Texas including Houston, Brazoria County, Chambers County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, Harris County, Liberty County, Montgomery County, Walker County, and Waller County.