More than 30 people get killed due to drunk driving accidents every day; this adds up to more than 10,000 people per year. This is why DWI cases are so highly regulated in the Texas legislature. Most authorities have been trying to increase their conviction rate to make the streets safer for everyone. Therefore, when someone finds themselves caught in a DWI or DUI process, they need to be extremely careful when proceeding.
This article is meant to explain everything about the approximate duration of DUI cases in Texas, which can be extremely helpful to educate any Texas resident with a driver's license.
What Is a DWI Case?
In order to know more about DWIs, it is essential to start from the basics. A DWI case or driving while intoxicated means that a person got caught by the local police department driving under the effects of any substance, which could usually be alcohol or other recreational drugs. It is a legal class B misdemeanor, which means the person is probably only going to receive a penalty fee unless they take part in the illegal behavior again.
This civil procedure is quite simple with the right DWI lawyer who can adequately guide the defendant throughout the process. Nonetheless, some conditions can aggravate the case, such as incurring this behavior more than two times.
Statute of Limitations for DWI
Because DWI cases are misdemeanors, the state of Texas has a time limit of two years to indict the defendant for the offense. This means they have two years from the moment they get arrested to formally accuse them. However, this usually isn't going to take that much time. The authorities do this, so they have enough time to gather all the needed evidence for the court date.
Nonetheless, the case could become a felony in some extraordinary circumstances. This could happen if the passenger is younger than 15 years old or if someone gets injured or killed during the event. In these cases, the state of Texas has up to three years to indict the defendant.
What to Expect
Most people who face a DWI seem to feel lost as these tend to be their first criminal offense. Therefore, it is normal for them not to know what to expect from the criminal justice system. However, it isn't as complicated or scary as it may seem at first.
Keep in mind that most DWI cases end in a trial, dismissal, or plea agreement. Nonetheless, the main goal of the defense lawyer is to achieve the release or, at least, less severe punishment for the accused. In order to do this, the first thing the DWI attorney must do is investigate and recollect as much relevant evidence as possible to help their case. This is a very rigorous process that could take anywhere between weeks and months.
Keeping this in mind, very few of the filed cases in Texas are ever dismissed. The state usually agrees to dismiss the case if the defense attorney can prove that the police officer didn't have justification to stop the defendant or enough evidence to arrest them, known as reasonable suspicion and probable cause. This is why it is vital to investigate the conditions of the arrest, the police reports, and whether the officer administered the sobriety blood or breath test or not. The lack of this evidence could weaken the case and cause a dismissal.
If the attorney fails to achieve the dismissal, the DWI case can only be solved through trial or plea. However, taking a DWI case to court can be pretty challenging. If the defendant doesn't have any previous criminal record and has a strong enough case, setting up a court date might be possible. This is usually done by people who can't accept a plea due to professional reasons. Nonetheless, this is only viable if the defendant is the one who proposes the trial; if the state attorney is the one to offer it, the defendant might not have many or any chances of winning the case.
An experienced DWI defense attorney should always obtain the best possible result for the defendant to avoid a DWI conviction or any other consequence they might face.
Ideal Timeline of a DWI Case
Every DWI case goes through a couple of stages. The first is the arrest and booking when the police find the person driving under substances and arrest them. This happens when the police have reasonable doubt to pull the person over and administer a sobriety test. They must have their rights read and get a blood test once they are taken to the station. After reaching that point, the person can either pay bail or wait for their jury trial date. Find out how much is bail for a DWI in Texas.
The best thing to do is pay attention to the whole process and make sure the arresting officer does everything according to the rule. However, this might be difficult to do if they've been driving while drunk.
Now, it is time to go to the arrangement hearing. In this hearing, the judge is meant to read out loud the charges, and the accused can plead either guilty or innocent. The best thing to do is not to plead guilty until they've talked to their attorney, as this can have severe consequences in future jobs or bank arrangements.
If everything goes according to plan, the defendant should get their posting bond amount set depending on their background and severity of the misdemeanor DWI case in around 48 hours. This may or may not have certain conditions set by the judge, such as an ignition interlock device. However, all of them can be thoroughly explained by the defense lawyer.
Nonetheless, the defendant's license could be suspended if they presented a BAC o 0.04% or more or if they refused to take a sobriety test. If this is the case, they must immediately set an ALR hearing. However, if this doesn't occur in a time period of 15 days, the license may be immediately suspended 40 days after the notice. However, there are certain ways how to get the license back after a DWI in Texas.
The next step is the plea entry, which may determine the case's route. If the defendant pleads not guilty, their case is going to be taken to court, where the jury is meant to decide whether or not they get convicted or face any other criminal charges.
On the other hand, if the defendant pleads guilty, they are going to face any punishment that the judge seems fit, and they may have the DWI charge on their criminal record forever. This can permanently stain their public image and the possibility of continuing their professional path.
The defendant might have to go through a preliminary hearing if they were charged with aggravated cases, such as manslaughter or assault. In this step, the judge is meant to decide whether there's enough evidence or not to set a trial date.
Afterward, the defendant may go to the pre-trial setting, where their lawyer is meant to negotiate with the judge on what evidence to keep during the DWI trial. If the defendant is a first-time offender, they might be able to delete the DWI from their records through the Pre Trial Diversion Program.
Once the defendant goes to trial, the DWI attorney may choose the grand jury and swear them in. The case is going to be explained and the evidence presented, including the testimony of the defendant and as many witnesses as possible.
Furthermore, the defense lawyer also gets their turn to present evidence and ask questions. Nonetheless, the defendant can always plead the 5th amendment and remain silent to protect confidential or sensitive information, which cannot be held as discriminatory. Afterward, the jury should be ready to decide on the verdict or declare a mistrial.
Now, the process can go one of two ways. If the defendant is found not guilty, they can't be prosecuted again for anything related to this DWI charge, and they can choose to fill up some paperwork to expunge it from their record. However, this can only be done within the first 30 days after the verdict is given.
Nonetheless, if the defendant is found guilty, the judge may decide on the sentence and move on to the punishment phase, which can be a DWI arrest, paying a civil fee, or even license removal.
How Long Does a DWI Case Take in Texas?
Even though the state has between two and three years to charge the person for the case depending on its severity, the real average of time spent within all the phases previously mentioned is around 20 to 40 days for misdemeanor DWI cases. However, this could go up to a couple of months for a felony DWI.
Can a DWI be Fought in a Jury Trial in Texas?
The best option to keep a criminal record clear is to find a good lawyer who can help fight a DWI. Moreover, not many people know how to do this themselves, so they create a much bigger problem than a simple DWI process.
A lot of people make the terrible mistake of representing themselves, but a successful and experienced Fort Worth TX DUI attorney is sure to make the right choices at the best times.
What Happens If a DWI Case Isn't Filed Against the Defendant?
In these cases, the defendant is free to live their life. However, this is only possible after the two or three years have passed and the authorities can't legally charge them. It must be kept in mind that the arrest records still need to be expunged, as these can also cause issues regarding background checks in jobs or bank loans. These records usually can't be differentiated from criminal and jail records.
Can You Get a DWI Off Your Record in Texas?
All misdemeanors and felonies stay on the defendant's criminal record forever in Texas. There is a common misconception that people usually believe that all records get cleaned after seven years. This doesn't happen in this state, but first-time offenders and people who were declared not guilty can remove their charges from their records to avoid future problems.
DWI convictions and any other case where they were declared guilty aren't eligible to be expunged. On the other hand, DUI charges can always be removed from any records, as these can only be charged on people younger than 21 years old.
The process to expunge these cases can take around six months, and it costs a few thousand dollars to do.
Why Filing DWI Cases Take Longer in Texas?
Commonly, the prosecution is extremely busy with all the cases they see every day, which pushes them to prioritize the violent cases, and overlook minor ones.
Another possibility is that the evidence against the defendant may not be as strong as it needs to be turned into a case. They could also be waiting for lab samples or the complete analysis, which can take weeks or months. Some counties can even take up to a year due to their lack of resources. There could be cases where the evidence got misplaced and can't be found, so they don't have any motives to arrest the defendant.
If more people were injured or killed during the accident, this would further complicate the process. Therefore, it would take more time than usual to gather all the evidence to proceed with the case.
These delays do not benefit anyone, as they cause incredible stress to the defendant and could harm the prosecutor's case if the evidence is never found.
DWI criminal cases can be challenging to face on their own. However, this guide was meant to shed light on information that most accused don't have access to. Hopefully, it was valuable enough to indicate the right path to take during a DWI process.
Nonetheless, the best option is always going to be to hire a DWI lawyer from the moment they get arrested and forge an excellent attorney-client relationship. This is meant to ensure the best results and increase the possibilities of keeping their record clean.