The Stages of a DWI/DUI Process

Most people in the United States have never been arrested or gone through a court case. If this is your first DWI, you may be wondering what happens next. Following are the general stages of a DWI case.


You have already been through the arrest process. An arrest means a DWI suspect has been apprehended for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. The police officer has performed a field sobriety test or has other probable cause for an arrest on DWI charges.


Booking occurs at the police station. Booking refers to the recording of your information such as name, address, and phone number. It also includes a records check for prior arrests; fingerprinting and “mug shots”; and search and seizure of contraband and personal property. Then you may be placed in a holding cell until bail is paid or until you are taken to court.


The court may allow you to be released on bail. If the you do not have the financial resources to pay the bail, a bail bondsman may be able to assist. You must then promise to return for a court appearance.


In the DWI court process this is your first chance for a court appearance; you are now called a defendant rather than a suspect. The charges are read and a plea is taken:

  • Guilty
  • Not guilty
  • No contest

If future court appearances are needed the judge schedules them at this time. Bail is also re-addressed.

Plea Bargain

A plea bargain is where your attorney and the prosecution will try to work out a resolution outside of a jury trial. It is an attempt to reduce the charges in return for a guilty or no contest plea. Your lawyer should go over whether this is appropriate in your case and what may happen with and without a plea bargain, including your future record.

If you already know there is solid evidence of drunk driving a plea bargain may be the best way to go.

Preliminary Hearing

This only occurs in felony cases. If there is not enough evidence to support a jury trial, the judge will dismiss the case. Unless someone has been injured or killed, or you are underage or driving a commercial vehicle, your charge will likely result in a misdemeanor.

Pre-Trial Motions

This is where the attorneys for both sides meet before a judge to motion to submit or exclude evidence, argue for and against testimony, and the rules of conduct are stated.


If you have plead not guilty and a plea bargain cannot be reached, a jury trial is convened. This consists of:

  • Jury selection
  • Opening statements
  • State’s case in chief
  • Defense case
  • Closing arguments
  • Jury instructions
  • Jury deliberation
  • Reading of the verdict

It is here that your lawyer will attempt to convince the jury to return a verdict of not guilty on the various charges. The prosecution, of course, is there to convince them of the opposite.


If you are convicted either through a prior plea bargain or by the judge or jury, punishment is now set. For a first offense in Texas that means:

  • Up to a $2,000 fine.
  • Jail time between 3 days and 180 days.
  • License suspension for up to 2 years.
  • Annual surcharge up to $2,000 for 3 years to keep license.
  • DWI intervention or education program.
  • Possible ignition interlock device.

As you can see, considerable time and money will be spent.

If you have been arrested for DWI and this is your first offense, call the Doug Wilder Firm. We specialize in DWI/DUI cases in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, an important reason for choosing us. We promise to do everything in our power to successfully defend your case.