When a person is arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, they are entitled to a presumption of innocence and a trial. Not all DWI cases necessarily go to trial because prosecutors frequently agree to plea deals. When a case does go to trial, it is not uncommon for the individual charged to be unfamiliar with the process.
The possibility of your own DWI case going to trial can depend on numerous factors, such as the severity of your alleged offense, the nature of the evidence against you, and your prior criminal record. Whenever a trial appears likely in a DWI case, you are going to want to be absolutely certain that you have skilled legal representation to help you understand your rights and defend you vigorously in court.
Were you arrested for a DWI in the Dallas area? Make sure that you contact the Law Office of RJ Harber right away for the experienced representation you deserve. Our firm can prepare your case for trial and will be prepared to achieve the most favorable possible result to your case. Call (214) 389-1189 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.
Most first and second DWI offenses in Texas are misdemeanors, but a DWI can be a felony if it is an alleged offender’s third or subsequent offense or the crime allegedly involved a passenger who was less than 15 years of age. Intoxication assault (DWI resulting in serious bodily injury) and intoxication manslaughter (DWI resulting in death) are also felony DWI offenses.
If your DWI is classified as a misdemeanor, the arresting officer will file a case with the local district attorney’s office and the district attorney will file a document called an information when they decide to prosecute. Misdemeanor cases are heard in county criminal courts, of which Dallas has 11.
For felony DWI cases, the arresting law enforcement agency again submits the case to a local district attorney’s office, but the case is then presented to a grand jury that must decide whether to issue a true bill that authorizes an indictment against an alleged offender or no bill when there is not enough evidence. Felony cases are handled in criminal district courts, of which Dallas County has seven.
You will likely have several court appearances long before any criminal trial. Your first appearance in court is called an arraignment, usually held within 30 days of a person’s arrest, and a judge will review the charges against you, make sure you understand them, ask you to enter a plea, and decide your bail during this hearing.
After your arraignment, there will likely be multiple other court appearances for you to attend. Throughout these hearings, your defense attorney will be negotiating with a prosecutor to try and reach some kind of agreement that avoids a trial.
Numerous motions could be filed during these court appearances, including motions to dismiss for lack of probable cause, motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence, or motions to exclude the testimony of a non-credible witness. A lawyer could also file a motion to strike prior DWI convictions in some cases.
When an alleged offender decides not to have a trial by jury or bench trial (a trial before a judge without a jury), plea setting could allow them to enter a plea and ask a judge or jury to determine the punishment. A plea of not guilty will result in a trial.
When your DWI case does go to trial, it will usually be heard by a jury, but you could have the option of having your case decided by a single judge (known as a bench trial). You will want to make sure you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of bench and jury trials with an experienced lawyer before agreeing to either format.
In either trial, a prosecutor must prove an alleged offender’s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest burden of proof and means that a juror cannot have any doubt about whether a person committed a crime in order to convict them.
Misdemeanor cases are heard by six jurors while felony cases will involve 12, and every juror must agree on a verdict for it to become final. One disagreement will result in a hung jury, and the prosecutor must decide if they want to try the case again or possibly dismiss the criminal charges.
The prosecutor will typically present their case first and usually introduce as much evidence as possible that an alleged offender committed a DWI crime. The prosecutor could also call witnesses such as arresting police officers or possibly even witnesses at the scenes of accidents involving alleged DWI offenses.
A defense attorney will then get the chance to present their case, and they could call their own witnesses that could include witnesses or other experts. Both the prosecutor and defense lawyer also have the opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses called.
After a trial has concluded, the jury will be sequestered and asked to render a verdict. When the jury finds an alleged offender not guilty, they are released from custody and the criminal charges are dropped. If the alleged offender is found guilty, then the court will determine and impose the punishment, which could include immediate imprisonment.
Other DWI penalties could include massive fines as well as mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) on all vehicles owned or operated by the alleged offender. Many people will also have their driver’s license suspended, but occupational licenses may be awarded in some cases for alleged offenders needing to drive to school or work.
If you were arrested for a DWI offense in Dallas or a nearby community in North Texas, remember that you do not have to plead guilty. There could be a number of possible defenses against the charges you are facing, so make sure that you understand what all of those options might be by calling an experienced Dallas DWI attorney. Your lawyer will examine your case, review the evidence against you, and will advise you on the best course of action that will likely yield the least consequences.
The Law Office of RJ Harber has been fighting DWI charges for more than a decade. We will discuss your rights with you as soon as you call (214) 389-1189 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation.