Have you recently been accused of driving while intoxicated/DWI? The consequences of these allegations could be long-lasting. Although drunk driving may seem like a minor criminal offense, the impact could be felt across multiple aspects of your life. Make sure you have an experienced DWI attorney helping you craft a powerful defense.
Law Office Of W. Todd Ver Weire can help you avoid the devastating penalties associated with a DWI criminal conviction. After analyzing the specific circumstances of your case, we will have a better idea as to how we should approach your defense strategy. Contact our criminal defense law firm for an initial consultation today to learn more about what is next for your case.
When Can You Face Drunk Driving Charges in Georgetown, TX?
Many people are quick to assume that drunk driving charges apply only if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit. Under Texas law, this is .08% for adults. Unfortunately, alcohol is not the only intoxicant that can lead to a DWI arrest and charge. If you took prescription medications that impair your normal mental of physical abilities, you could still be at risk. Similarly, operating a motor vehicle (not just car, but motorcycle, go kart, dune buggy, or even a riding lawn mower) while under the influence of an illegal drug, such as marijuana, K2, or other illegal drug, can lead to a DWI arrest and charges being filed. It is crucial to have an experienced DUI attorney on your side, fighting to protect your rights and future if this is the case.
A DWI charge is not limited to those times when you drink. While alcohol based DWI arrests are still the leading cause of DWI cases in Williamson County, there is an ever increasing portion of cases filed as a result of either prescription medication, or illegal drugs. Local law enforcement is spending more time investigating cases that involve folks driving after taking medications through the use of a “drug recognition expert” – think police officer with an additional class and training beyond the normal DWI class – and a series of extra tests to try and determine what class – stimulant or depressant – of drug the driver is on.
Because certain prescriptions are more likely than others to cause such a problem, even over the counter allergy medicine can cause issues – can you say Benadryl – it is extremely important that you do not answer any questions concerning medications that you take if stopped, that you exercise your right to remain silent, and that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. While you may think that it is acceptable to drive after taking your prescription medication, if the medicine, or combination of medicines, causes a loss in your normal mental of physical faculties, you can face a DWI charge. Be extra mindful when reading about the side effects of your medication, and pay extra attention to the warning labels on the side of the bottle.
The DPS Administrative Case to Suspend Your License
Before your DWI case goes to trial, you can expect the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to pursue an administrative case against you. This requires your immediate attention, as you only have up to 15 days from your DWI arrest to request an administrative hearing.
This is your only opportunity to avoid the administrative suspension of your driver’s license, which more of the than not occurs before you ever see a judge relating to your criminal case. If you do not file a request for an administrative hearing before time runs out, you can expect to have your license automatically suspended for a mandatory minimum of 90 days. This is true even if the criminal case is dismissed, still pending, or you are ultimately acquitted in the criminal case. While you may receive credit towards a suspension of your driver’s license in the criminal case for any administrative suspension, a suspended license administratively does mean that you cannot drive without an Occupational Driver’s License.
Your DUI lawyer will be prepared to challenge the police officer’s evidence against you. In administrative hearings, law enforcement officials often do not have the time to prepare accordingly, or sometimes make comments that they would not otherwise make which can lead to an issue that can be exploited in the criminal case. This could result in testimony differences and discrepancies which could ultimately be a substantial advantage in your case.
What are the Criminal Penalties Associated With a DUI?
In addition to helping you fight back against the DPS administrative penalties involving the suspension of your driver’s license, my office is also prepared to help you fight back against the criminal penalties associated with a DWI. The number of DWIs on your record will impact the severity of your penalties. Please note, just being arrested for an alcohol related DWI will require you to install an ignition interlock device on any motor vehicle that you have access to or can use. It does not matter if the vehicle is in your spouse’s name, parent’s name, girlfriend’s name. If you drive it, it better have an ignition interlock installed until your case is resolve. If not, you could find yourself back in jail for violating your bond conditions.
Consequences Of a First DWI
If this is your first time being charged with drunk driving, you will be faced with a Class B misdemeanor unless aggravating factors are present. Generally, a first-time DWI conviction will carry penalties that include the following:
- Suspension of your driver’s license
- Fines of up to $4,000
- As much as 365 days in jail
- A permanent DWI conviction on your record
- A “super” fine ranging between $3,000 to $6,000.
- An ignition interlock device – if placed on probation.
Your BAC level does impact on the extent of your penalties. For example, if your BAC level is less than .15%, you might face a maximum of only six months in jail, a criminal fine of up to $2,000, and an additional super fine of between $3,000 to $4,500. However, once your BAC level reaches .15% or more, your Class B misdemeanor charges will be elevated to a class A misdemeanor, and you face up to 365 days in jail, a criminal fine of up to $4,000, and a super fine of $6,000.00.
If you are charged with a DWI with a child passenger, you may face additional criminal charges. This is considered a state jail felony. Punishable by up to 24 months in a Texas state jail and fines not to exceed $10,000, this conviction will have a devastating impact on your life.
Alternatively, you could also face charges for DWI with an open container. Depending on your BAC levels, this could be a Class A or B misdemeanor. The minimum penalty for a DWI with an open container is six days in jail. You can expect your DUI attorney to fight to get your DWI charges reduced to a lesser offense, such as DWI with an open container, as this carries less severe penalties.
Criminal Penalties For a Second DWI
If this is your second time being charged with DWI, you need a Georgetown DUI attorney to defend you. Repeat offenders face additional criminal penalties. You may be required to spend a mandatory minimum of three days in jail even if you are sentenced to probation. If sentencing enhancements apply, these penalties could be increased. You will be ordered to install an ignition interlock device at your own cost for an alcohol related DWI, and pay a super fine of up to $6,000.
Third and Subsequent DWI Penalties
When you reach three or more DWI convictions, your penalties will be dramatically increased. Instead of facing misdemeanor-level charges, you will be charged with a third-degree felony. You might be sentenced to as many as 10 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice penitentiary or prison. You may also be ordered to pay fines of up to $10,000.
Even if you are granted probation, you will need to spend a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison – a/k/a the Texas Department of Corrections – and a maximum of 10 years. You can also expect your driver’s license to be suspended for up to a year, and face many collateral consequences associated with a felony DWI conviction on your record. For example, upon your release, you may be ordered to install an IID that will require you to blow into the breathalyzer before your vehicle will start. If it is a fourth or fifth DWI, you will face a lifetime suspension of your driver’s license, and the possibility of an enhanced prison sentece.
Collateral Consequences Of a Texas DWI Conviction
It is not only the criminal penalties of a DWI that you should be concerned with. It is also the collateral consequences of a conviction that could have a substantial effect on your life not only now but years into the future.
Remember, a DWI conviction is not eligible for expungement, so this will remain on your record and be reflected on your background check anytime potential employers, higher education institutions, or other third parties need to conduct a background check. You may be passed over for these opportunities due to your conviction. Other potential collateral consequences could include the following:
- Loss of federal student aid eligibility
- Trouble finding gainful employment
- Child custody issues
- Loss of child visitation rights
- Loss of gun rights
- Inability to vote while incarcerated
- Trouble finding safe or affordable housing
- Increased auto insurance rates
- An inability to work due to a license suspension
Underage DWIs in Texas
DWI is not limited to those over 21. In Texas, if you are under 21 years of age at the time of arrest, your punishment is based upon your age. The major difference is that instead of having to show a BAC of .08 or above for a presumption, if you are under 21, all the state has to prove is a detectable amount of alcohol in order to charge you with DUI. Police officers may conduct a breath test or simply have the opinion that the underaged party is impaired or incapable of driving safely.
The consequences of a DUI can include suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. This could be as long as 60 days if you are not offered or fail a BAC test, but it could reach as many as 180 days if you refuse to consent to a BAC test. Additionally, you will face a fine of up to $500, community service of between 20 to 40 hours, and a mandatory alcohol awareness class.
If you are 17 or older, and your BAC is .08 or greater, you can face a driver’s license suspension of between 90 days to one year, jail time of between 3 days and 180 days, and a fine not to exceed $2,000, plus the super fine of between $3,000 and $4,500.
You can expect my office to attempt to get your charges reduced to a minor in possession (MIP) charge wherever possible, as this carries less severe penalties. First or second offenders can expect to pay fines of up to $500, while third MIP convictions can carry penalties of up to 180 days in a Texas state jail facility and up to $2,000 in fines.
How to Respond to/Defend Against DWI Allegations in Texas
There are several ways you can go about defending yourself when you are facing DWI allegations. While taking your case to trial is always an option, sometimes looking at alternatives that may offer a way to avoid a conviction before planning a defense.
Pre-Trail Diversion Programs
Williamson County currently has three potential programs that offer an alternative to taking a case to trial, with the result being either a dismissal or a reduced charge.
- Pre-Trial Intervention Program
- Veteran’s Treatment Court
- DWI/Drug Court Program
Pre-Trial Intervention Program
The Williamson County Pre-Trial Intervention Program is offered to those individuals that have no criminal history anywhere, other than maybe a few speeding tickets. There is a comprehensive screening process that includes various diagnostic tools to determine your risk factors towards reoffending and engaging in bad behavior, along with your needs factors in terms of how much supervision you may need. There is a cost for the assessments that you mush pay upfront with no guarantee that you will get into the program.
If accepted into the program, there are three tracts for DWI, and they depend upon your BAC, and the risk and needs assessment. Some of the tracts offer a dismissal and expunction (think magic eraser that removes the arrest and criminal case from public files), or a deferred adjudication type resolution. There is a cost to the program that you must pay, along with completing various educational classes and community service hours. The key to the program is that it is a low oversite, high compliance environment, meaning that if you are the type of person that you need someone looking over your shoulder, this may not be for you because when you enter the program you do sign an agreement that states should you fail out of the program, you will plead guilty, and the plea bargain terms are already set.
Veteran’s Treatment Court
For those folks facing a DWI that served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, or the Space Force, another option may be the Veteran’s Treatment Court.
This is an option for those individuals that either do or do not have a criminal history. If this is a DWI first offense, there is a very good probability that you would end up on the diversion tract, which means that the case is dismissed, and the state would pay for the expunction upon successful completion. If you have a prior DWI conviction, depending upon the nature of the DWI charge, your subsequent case could be reduced to a lesser DWI offense, and in those cases where there is a long time span between offenses – say 15 years – a possible dismissal. The benefit of the VTC is that the costs of the program are relatively minor, there are grants that help with some of the costs, you are around other individuals that are also Veterans, and having a criminal history would not exclude you from participating in the program, it just may change the outcome.
The third option, and this is one that only applies to folks that already have either a DWI conviction, or a prior drug based conviction, is the DWI/Drug Court. There is both a misdemeanor and felony program, that offer various results, usually being a reduction from a DWI 2 to a DWI 1, or a DWI 3rd to a DWI 2.
It is a treatment based approach, much like VTC, and some grans exist to assist with the some of the costs associated with the program. If you do have a prior DWI, and are facing a DWI 2 or higher, and there are no legal issues with the underlying case, this could be an option that would allow you to maintain some control over the outcome.
Potential DWI Defenses
If your DWI case needs to go to trial, multiple potential defenses could be used to challenge the allegations against you. Some examples could include:
- Breathalyzer calibration or administration issues
- Offering an alternative explanation for the apparent symptoms of DWI
- Unlawful stop or illegal search and seizure
- Failure to read your Miranda rights
- Prejudicial field sobriety test results
These are just a few of the potential defenses that could be used when your DWI case goes to court. Your drunk driving defense attorney will carefully examine the specific details of your arrest in the evidence against you to determine which defenses are going to be most favorable in your case.
An unfortunate reality is that no lawyer can guarantee an outcome. As part of the plea negotiation process leading up to a trial, various options such as deferred adjudication or formal probation, or even one of the treatment courts mentioned above, may be a possibility.
Deferred Adjudication is a form of community supervision, also known as probation, but instead of a conviction, the case is dismissed upon successful completion. With that said, the only way to get Deferred Adjudication is through a plea bargain with the State of Texas, and you do have to admit guilt. The Deferred part comes in when the Court defers a finding of guilt and gives you a chance to prove yourself during the term of the community supervision/probation.
When you agree to deferred adjudication, you will be on community supervision for a previously agreed-upon amount of time. You will also have specific terms and requirements you must meet while on community supervision. This may include attending drug or alcohol treatment programs, completing a DWI driving course, attending mental health counseling, and paying court fines, for example. Also, you will be required to have either an ignition interlock device, or if you don’t own or have access to a motor vehicle, a portable breath device.
The one important thing to remember about Deferred Adjudication is that if you screw up to where the State files a Motion to Adjudicate, you only get a hearing in front of the Judge as to whether or not you violated the terms of community supervision using a preponderance of the evidence standard. You do NOT get to go back and attack the underlying DWI case.
Probation For a DWI in Texas as Opposed to Jail Time
With help from your Georgetown DUI lawyer, you may be able to avoid some of the harsh penalties by entering into a plea agreement involving probation, as opposed to jail/prison time. This is done before you start. If you are granted probation, you will need to serve community supervision as opposed to spending time in jail or prison.
If DWI probation is granted, you could spend anywhere from 24 months to 10 years on probation, depending on whether you were charged with a misdemeanor or felony level. Unfortunately, Texas law does not allow those with DWI convictions to be granted early termination of probation.
Whatever the sentencing is will be mandatory. While on probation, you will be prohibited from consuming drugs or alcohol, potentially need to install an ignition interlock device, and may need to attend regular meetings with your probation officer. If you violate your DWI probation, probation may be revoked, and you will be re-arrested and sentenced to the initial DWI charges against you.
Texas DWI FAQ
When you are facing DWI charges in Texas, you may have many unanswered questions about how negotiating with the prosecutor works, the potential consequences of a conviction, and how to approach your defense. In the hopes of helping you feel more confident as you fight for your freedom, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions regarding DWIs below. If you have additional questions we did not cover here, do not hesitate to contact our team to discuss your concerns further.
Is Jail Mandatory for a 1st DWI in Texas?
Not necessarily. If you have been charged with a DUI for the first time, there are ways to avoid jail time as a punishment, through a probation plea bargain, deferred adjudication deal, or one of the treatment courts or diversion programs. However, depending on the circumstances of your case, jail time may be included as part of your sentencing. For example, if a child was involved, you have a criminal record, or a deadly weapon was involved, you can expect your DWI conviction to include jail time or incarceration.
Can You Expunge or Seal a DWI?
You may be able to seal your record through a nondisclosure petition or get your DWI expunged based on the specific details of your case. For example, if you were acquitted of the DWI against you or your case was ultimately dismissed, you may be eligible for expungement. However, if you were convicted of a DWI, Texas law prohibits expunction.
Is a DWI Always a Felony in Texas?
DWI charges are not always felonies. Generally, if this is your first DWI offense, you will face Class B misdemeanor charges. In fact, unless you are a habitual offender with three or more DWIs on your record, your drunk driving charges will be at the misdemeanor level. Once you reach three or more DWI convictions, or if a child passenger is involved, then you will face felony-level DWI charges.
What is Expungement?
When you get your record expunged, it is as if the criminal charges against you are nonexistent. The records, including your arrest and prosecution, will no longer be available to the public but may be available to specific government officials as needed.
When you get your record expunged, you no longer need to admit to the conviction. It will be as if the conviction did not exist. However, DWI convictions in Texas are not eligible for expungement.
What is the Cost of a DWI in Texas?
The cost of a DUI will be thousands of dollars or more. On top of having to pay court fines and fees, cover the costs of DUI school, pay extra in auto insurance coverage, and take time off of work due to your conviction, you may also need to pay for the installation of the new mission interlock device (IID), pay for drug or alcohol treatment, and cover the costs of any drug or alcohol testing through your probation officer.
What is a Petition for Non-Disclosure?
A non-disclosure petition is similar to an expunction. However, instead of deleting your record, it seals it, so these records are no longer available to anyone other than court or government officials. This way, a DUI that has a non-disclosure will no longer come up on your background check, which could have a significant impact on your ability to obtain gainful employment. The easiest way to differentiate between an expunction and a non-disclosure is think of an expunction as the magic eraser – it removes both the arrest and court case from all government records permanently; while a non-disclosure is like putting something behind a pay-wall – meaning that those with the correct credentials can see it – think law enforcement – but the public at large cannot.
Get Help From One of Texas’ Leading DWI Lawyers Today
The consequences of a DWI conviction could have an impact on your life for the foreseeable future. Although expungement is possible, the best way to avoid a devastating criminal record is to get an experienced Texas DWI attorney working for you.
Our team at the Law Office Of W. Todd Ver Weire can help you prepare a powerful defense strategy or obtain deferred adjudication to avoid these harsh criminal penalties. Contact our top-rated Georgetown DUI attorneys for an initial consultation today and learn more about which defenses are most likely to produce a favorable outcome in your case. You can reach us through our online contact form or phone to get started as soon as today.