Getting arrested for DWI can be an extremely stressful experience. Soon after your arrest, your mailbox will likely be full of ads from criminal defense lawyers trying to offer their services. You may even be receiving text messages (which is an ethically questionable practice) from less reputable criminal defense attorneys sometimes claiming terrible things will happen if you don’t hire them now. The reality is after you are arrested for DWI, there is usually no real rush to hire an attorney. You should not fall for high-pressure sales tactics. After a DWI arrest, the best thing to do is to catch your breath, get some rest and take your time finding the right attorney to handle your case. The truth is that very little in a DWI case is time-sensitive and this article describes what those things are.
You have 15 days from the date of your arrest to request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing
The only hard deadline you are facing after a DWI may be your deadline to request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) case. If you are arrested for DWI in Texas, the Department of Public Safety will initiate a proceeding against your driver’s license if you had a result higher than a .08 (known as a “failure”), or if you refuse to give a breath or blood sample (known as a “refusal”). You must request your hearing within 15 days. If you do not request your hearing, then your driver’s license will be suspended. This is bad because, of course, you do not want your driver’s license to be suspended. But it also deprives your DWI attorney of the opportunity to gain evidence through the ALR case (since DPS must provide documents relating to the DWI arrest, like an offense report) and possibly an opportunity to cross-examine the officer(s) in your DWI case.
If you are getting close the 15-day deadline do not panic! You can simply request your own ALR hearing. If you plan on hiring a DWI attorney, it is better to let the attorney make the request for the ALR hearing since the attorney should use a special form (that also serves as a request for evidence) which is sent by fax. Having an attorney fax the request is the best practice since DPS is notorious for losing paperwork. But if you are close to the deadline, you can easily make the request yourself.
At the bottom of the paperwork you should have received after your DWI arrest, there are instructions for making your own ALR request. The particular page that contains the information for making your own ALR request is known as the DIC-25. That document states that you may request a hearing by calling 1-800-394-9913. It is also possible to make a request at this website. You should have your Texas Driver’s License number ready. Most attorneys prefer that a request be made for an “in-person” rather than a telephonic hearing, but that is something that a DWI attorney can change later on. Once your ALR request is made, you or your attorney will receive a hearing date and the process of handing an ALR case (which can be complicated and should be handled by an experienced DWI attorney) will begin.
An attorney can advocate for you regarding bond conditions at the first court setting
In some cases, it may be a good idea to have an attorney before your first court setting, so your attorney can argue for less restrictive bond conditions. Bond conditions in DWI cases can vary quite a bit depending on the facts of your case, your criminal history, and the court that your case is assigned to. In Houston, the District Attorney’s Office sometimes reflexively asks for restrictive bond conditions in DWI cases, which the judge may be more likely to grant if you do not have an attorney with you who understands the facts of your case and your life situation.
One of the most frequent and onerous bond conditions in a DWI case is an ignition interlock device. As you probably know, this is a device that you must blow into before your car will start. Some judges in the Houston area have a default policy of ordering an interlock in every DWI case, although it may be possible to convince them that it is not necessary in your case, or not practical if you drive a work vehicle, for example.
In Texas, judges are required to order an ignition interlock device as a condition of bond if you are charged with a repeat DWI, intoxication assault, intoxication manslaughter or have a blood alcohol concentration above .15. However, a magistrate may choose to not require installation in these cases if it would not be in the best interest of justice.
Other problematic bond conditions that an attorney can argue against are travel restrictions, random drug/alcohol tests, and in extreme cases (usually felony DWIs) no driving. Again, many judges are quick to order bond conditions such as these in DWIs as a matter of policy without considering the facts of the DWI and a defendant’s situation. To maximize your chances of avoiding overly restrictive bond conditions, it is a good idea to have a criminal defense attorney present with you at your first court setting when these bond conditions are set. Of course, it is always possible for your attorney to later address the court regarding your bond conditions. Many judges, however, are less likely to modify bond conditions once they are set.
Preserving some types of evidence needs to be done quickly in a DWI
By law, the State of Texas is required to give your attorney all of the evidence in a case. This includes offense reports, videos, the results of breath or blood results, and the breath or blood “discovery” – meaning the documents from the lab showing how the blood was collected, handled, stored, and analyzed.
In the vast majority of cases, this will be the entirety of the evidence, and there is no need to move quickly to obtain it (in fact, in Houston, obtaining all of the evidence in a DWI case is typically taking six months or longer). However, if there is surveillance video that needs to be requested from a bar or store – which is rare in a DWI case – this should be requested as quickly as possible by your criminal defense attorney. Most businesses only store videos for days or, at most, weeks and you typically need to act quickly to obtain the evidence.
But as you probably tell from this article, there is no need to make a rushed decision when hiring a DWI attorney. It is a good idea to take your time, do you research, and find the right attorney for you and your price range. Attorneys who employ high-pressure tactics generally do not have your best interests in mind and it is a good idea to proceed cautiously. Contact us today.