What to Know for the DWI Court Process

It is important to understand the process of going to trial for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). The DWI court process includes a preliminary hearing, a pretrial conference, negotiating plea-bargains, the actual trial, and the verdict. It is also important to understand the laws of your state, such as whether licenses are suspended using the administrative license suspension, whether driving privileges can be restored during a suspension, and whether you can expect an interlock device to be installed on your vehicle. The details of the DWI court process can get complicated, and it is always advisable to hire an attorney in the process of going to trial.

Preliminary Hearing
The first meeting in the DWI court process will usually be a Preliminary Hearing. This is typically within two weeks of your arrest. During these two weeks, it is imperative that you seek out a DWI attorney, although a public defender will be assigned to you if you cannot afford a private attorney. Attorneys can make the difference in certain cases, however, so choose wisely.

The Preliminary Hearing, which often occurs around 10-20 days from your arraignment, will be when you enter a plea of guilty (no-contest) or not guilty. This plea is non-retractable, so make sure you understand what all is entailed in making the particular plea you decide to make.

Pretrial Conference
After the Preliminary Hearing, there typically is a Pretrial Conference, which usually takes place about a month before the formal arraignment hearing. This part of the DWI court process is extremely important if you and your attorney wish to take your case to a jury trial since your attorney will try to insure that incriminating evidence is withheld on numerous grounds. It is possible that your attorney will seek a plea-agreement with the District Attorney’s office. If a plea-bargain is not met, then the usual next stage will be jury selection followed by the criminal trial.

Criminal Trial
The final part of the DWI court process, a criminal trial, can take days or months, depending on the circumstances of your case. The court case should happen within 90 days of the original arraignment hearing. In the criminal trial, the jury is what will determine your guilt or innocence. The judge does the sentencing if you are found guilty.

License Suspension
It is a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above .08 percent. Usually, license suspension or revocation follows conviction for driving under the influence. Licenses can, however, be taken before conviction under a procedure called administrative license suspension, when a driver refuses or fails a chemical test. The license is suspended under the administrative license suspension for 90 days in Texas.

Restoration of Driving Privileges
Many states allow for driving privileges to be restored during a suspension, but drivers usually must demonstrate special hardship and the restored privileges usually come with limitations (such as only being able to drive to and from work, etc.). Texas is one of the states that allows driving privileges to be restored.

Interlock Device
Sometimes, states install an interlock device on vehicles. Interlock devices analyze a driver’s breath and disable the ignition if the driver has been drinking. All states have laws giving courts or departments of motor vehicles the discretion to order interlocks for DWI offenders. In Texas, interlock devices are installed on the vehicles of first-time offenders if they have a high BAC and are usually installed on the vehicles of repeat-offenders.

All of this information is crucial for understanding the DWI court process as well as what can occur once you are convicted of a DWI. Though the process seems scary, it becomes much easier when a strong attorney is there to help you through it and can help you avoid some of the devastating effects that a DUI can have once it is on your record. If you have been arrested for a DWI, you should be able to trust that your attorneys know what they are doing. If you are currently seeking a DWI attorney, please contact us.