If you have been arrested for DWI, and have no experience in the criminal justice system, one question you may have is whether you need a DWI attorney at all. After all, many people successfully represent themselves on traffic ticket cases. This article discusses the top 3 reasons you should absolutely hire an experienced DWI lawyer to handle your case.
An experienced DWI lawyer will help you get the best result possible
If you are charged with first-time DWI, the goal should be to keep a DWI off of your record. Apart from potential jail time, probation, driver’s license suspension, or a fine, the collateral consequences of a DWI can follow you around for the rest of your life. Unlike traffic ticket cases, DWIs are not cases District Attorneys offices are just willing to let go without a fight.
In order to obtain the best possible result in your DWI case, you attorney needs to aggressively challenge every step of the investigation. This includes the reason for the traffic stops, the way the officer handled the investigation, administered police balance tests, whether there was sufficient evidence for an arrest, whether you were advised of your rights properly before being asked to consent to a breath or blood test, and whether the test itself was accurate.
In order to be able to challenge each stage of the investigation in this manner, it is necessary to first obtain the evidence. In the Greater Houston area, obtaining the evidence can take six months or more. For an experienced DWI lawyer, the process of evidence gathering (known as “discovery”) is relatively streamlined. It would be very challenging for an inexperienced person to obtain the evidence from the District Attorney. Additionally, it would be nearly impossible for a non-lawyer to be able to evaluate a DWI case (which can be one of the most technical types of criminal cases).
Once a lawyer has obtained the evidence, and evaluated it (preferably alongside a client, so the client can make an informed decision as to how to proceed), the lawyer must then decide the best way for the case to be resolved. Dismissal is always the goal. But a lawyer has to be strategic about how to maximize the chance of a dismissal of your DWI. For example, if there is a problem with the traffic stop, a DWI lawyer would have to decide whether to share that issue with the prosecutor (in the hopes of getting the case dismissed), or not reveal the issue until trial. Again, it would be virtually impossible for a non-lawyer with no experience with DWIs to be able to spot meaningful issues, and to present them to the State in the most effective way possible.
If the case will not be dismissed (only the District Attorney can dismiss cases) then a case will be resolved by either plea agreement or trial. For many reasons, it would be very difficult for a non-lawyer to effectively negotiate a good plea on his own behalf. A plea negotiation can be an art form. But even apart from the skills required to negotiate effectively, a non-lawyer would not know how to value a case, or even know what resolutions are possible. This would essentially be a negotiation done in the dark.
Finally, if a case goes to trial, a non-lawyer representing himself would be at a huge disadvantage. A criminal trial is a highly technical proceeding that an effective DWI lawyer has spent years learning how to conduct. Without any trial experience, familiarity with the Rules of Evidence, or the technical areas involved in a DWI trial, it would again be nearly impossible for a lawyer to do a reasonable job, let alone obtain a verdict of “not guilty.”
A DWI lawyer can handle your Administrative License Revocation Case
Most people charged with DWI in Texas also face an Administrative License Revocation case (known as an “ALR” case). For a first-time DWI, this is either a 60 or 180 day suspension of your Texas driving privileges depending on whether it is alleged that you failed a breath or blood test (in other words, had a result higher than .08), or whether you refused a test after an arrest for DWI. An ALR hearing needs to be requested within 15 days or the suspension becomes effective immediately.
Handling an ALR case can be very tricky. After the request is made, an attorney must generally subpoena the officers who were involved in the stop and arrest and provide notice by a certain date that the subpoena was served to the Department of Public Safety and the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Even for experienced attorneys, the ALR process is rife with opportunities for missed deadlines and mistakes. If not handled correctly, many missteps can result in the suspension of your driver’s license.
In the Greater Houston area, Ceja Law Firm wins virtually all of its driver’s license hearings so our clients rarely face an administrative suspension. But in the event that our client ever faces a driver’s license suspension – either as a part of the ALR process or a suspension related to the criminal case – we are experienced in quickly obtaining Occupational Driver’s Licenses so our clients can continue to drive.
A DWI attorney can advocate for you regarding bond conditions
One of the most stressful parts of the DWI process for many defendants is navigating and complying with bond conditions that a court may impose on you. Depending on the judge and on the facts of your case, you could be ordered to obtain an ignition interlock device in your car, or comply with a variety of other requirements. While the case is going on, it is critical that you comply with the bond requirements or your could risk getting your bond revoked.
An experienced DWI attorney, can advocate on your behalf to make sure that any bond conditions that are set are not overly restrictive from the first court setting. In the Houston area, sometimes judges set unreasonable bond conditions, such as requiring that defendants stay in Harris County. If an attorney explains to a judge that a defendant has a need to travel, such as work, most judges will amend such a requirement.
In the event that there is an issue with your bond, such as a positive alcohol result in an interlock, or a new law violation, a DWI attorney can work to prevent your bond being revoked, or ensure that a new bond is set in your case right away (for most first time DWIs, a defendant is Constitutionally entitled to a new bond if a bond is revoked for a bond violation).
In short, there is no question that you need an attorney if you are arrested for DWI. If you are arrested anywhere in the Greater Houston area, Ceja Law Firm offers a free consultation to discuss your situation in detail. Contact our office today.
Attorney Jose Ceja regularly obtains excellent results for his clients in Harris County, Galveston County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Chambers County, Waller County and Brazoria County.