A DWI charge is unique from most other criminal charges; a DWI charge invokes two separate processes: an administrative proceeding where you can have your driver's license suspended and a criminal proceeding where, if convicted, you can face penalties of jail time and steep fines, among other conditions and terms of sentencing. For first time offenders, the court process can be both intimidating and confusing. It is enough to make you want to plead guilty so that you do not have to deal with it all.
Pleading guilty, however, would be a mistake. There are serious penalties and collateral consequences that accompany a guilty plea. You can rest assured that with a Board-certified DWI attorney and a Board-certified criminal defense attorney, the court system and trial process does not have to be intimidating, and in fact can be to your benefit. Being Board-certified is testimony to the lawyer's capabilities, insight and experienced. Finding an attorney who is Board-certified in both DWI and criminal defense is difficult; there are only two lawyers in all of the State of Texas with this distinction, and one such lawyer is Doug Murphy. Based in Houston, Texas, and representing clients throughout the region, Doug Murphy prepares each case for trial and guides his client's through the process. If you have been charged with a DWI or DWI-related offense, contact Doug Murphy Law Firm today.
The DWI Court Process
If it's your first time in court, it can be both bewildering and daunting. Knowing what to expect helps relieve some of the fear-induced stress. The following are the general stages of a DWI case as it makes its way to court. Court procedures vary from court to court, even in the same jurisdiction. Court procedures also vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
You are already likely aware of the arrest stage. It is during this time that an officer has probable cause for an arrest on DWI charges, most often from the results of a field sobriety test, but probable cause could be acquired through other indicators.
After you are arrested, you are taken to the police station and booked. Booking basically refers to the process to acquire and record information about you in the police database. This process include recording your personal information (name, address, phone number, etc.), checking your record for prior arrests, fingerprinting, taking your mugshot, and searching for and seizing any contraband or personal property. After this information is taken, you are placed in a holding cell until one of the following happens: (1) you pay bail; or (2) you are taken to court.
In most DWI and DUI cases, if no one was hurt or killed, you can be released on bail that is set relatively low. When bail is paid, you are released. The bail acts as a promise that you will return for the court appearance.
The arraignment is an important hearing, at which time you are read the charges against you. You will receive a notice by mail of the hearing date, or else it will be provided to you upon release from jail. At this hearing, you will plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
It is always advised that you plead not guilty. So many first time offenders are intimidated by the system and plead guilty or no contest in the hopes that it will all go away faster, but it doesn't. In fact, pleading guilty sets you up for difficulties in the future with job applications, renting a home, admissions to higher education institutions, among other difficulties. An experienced attorney can help you through the trial process; better yet, an experienced attorney will work hard towards dismissal of the charges.
During the arraignment, the judge may set conditions on your release. In some cases, these conditions could include random testing or installation of an Ignition Interlock Device in your car. Usually, harsher conditions are reserved for persons who have already had a prior DWI or DWI-related conviction.
The next court date will be determined by your plea of guilty or not guilty as well as which county you reside. Some counties will have a “no-issue” or “announcement” before a trial date is set, while other counties will schedule a trial setting or pre-trial motion court date.
A plea bargain is an attempt for the prosecution and your attorney to come to a resolution to your case without the need for trial. A defense attorney will try to reduce the charges, but in return you must plead guilty or no contest. Many times attorneys commit to plea bargains out of their own interests and not yours. The same is true here as during the arraignment, it may sound nice to make a plea deal and “get off” with a lesser charge, but it simple is not as simple as it sounds.
If you plead guilty for a lesser charge, you still have a criminal record. If it is a lesser DWI charge, you should know it stays on your record permanently; it cannot be expunged. As such, you still will face collateral consequences that include your record showing whenever a background check is made, and this means problems obtaining a job, a home, federal loans for school, among other problems. If you want to save your future and your reputation, you should fight your charge, not settle.
To fight your charge, however, you need an attorney with experience and insight that only going to trial provides. Doug Murphy prepares each case for trial, fully intending to go to trial unless he is able to get the charges dismissed prior to trial. He sees the inside of a courtroom on a regular basis, and this experience distinguishes him from other attorneys who rarely, if ever, face the prosecution before a judge. Your interests are Doug Murphy's number one priority, not a quick settlement so he can move on to the next case and never stand before a judge and jury. When it is your freedom and your future in question, you cannot settle.
You will only have a preliminary hearing if your DWI is a felony. DWI felonies, e.g. intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter, are serious. This hearing will determine if there is sufficient evidence to support a jury trial, and if not, the judge will dismiss the case.
Pre-trial motions are tools your attorney can use to exclude evidence from a trial. A motion to suppress is important to challenge the method or way evidence was obtained. Hearings on the motions will be held, and at that time, your attorney will argue before a judge, the latter of whom will determine if evidence should be excluded or not.
Doug Murphy has two decades of experience with these types of motions and hearings. He knows what the prosecution will attempt to do in certain situations, and Doug Murphy responds accordingly and strategically.
During a jury trial, your attorney will argue before a judge and jury. He will breakdown the elements of the charge and force the judge and jury to uphold the principle of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If doubt exists, in most cases, a jury should not return a conviction.
A jury trial consists of several parts:
- Jury selection. Also known as voir dire, jury selection is an important process for your lawyer. He will question potential jurors to expose any biases. There will be six jurors for misdemeanor cases and twelve jurors for felony cases.
- Opening statements. Opening statements are made by the State and the Defense. You attorney uses this opportunity to develop his arguments and shed a “human light” on your case.
- Trial. During the trial, the prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney will challenge the evidence to cast reasonable doubt that you committed the crime, and there is a lot of room to cast doubt when procedures are not followed strictly and when evidence has been tampered or otherwise interfered. Having a Board-certified DWI attorney and a Board-certified criminal defense attorney strengthens your case. Doug Murphy, one of only two attorneys to hold the distinction in Texas, is Board-certified in both. It is testimony of his skills, and he will use his skills to your benefit to breakdown the evidence, bring in witnesses, and question all of it in a way that is calculated and measured.
- Closing arguments. During closing arguments, the prosecution and defense wrap up their arguments and state their final words to the jury before they deliberate.
- Jury instructions & deliberation. During this time the jury is instructed and the jury is left to deliberate the case. The jury must be unanimous for a “not guilty” or “guilty” outcome. If there is one holdout, then it could be deemed a mistrial by the judge. Juries are unpredictable, but if the defense attorney did his job right, then some sympathy and doubt will work in your favor.
- The verdict. At the time the verdict is concluded, you will be brought back to court and the verdict will be read to you and all who are present. Depending on the verdict, you will either be released without any other conditions or terms, or will have a sentencing hearing set.
If you are convicted, you will have a sentencing hearing at which time punishment will be set. Penalties vary widely according to the offense. With Doug Murphy as your attorney, however, the intention is never to reach this hearing. All cases, however, are very dependent on the facts.
Experienced DWI Attorney in Houston, TX
At Doug Murphy Law Firm, we devote our resources and capabilities to defend our clients' rights. We have decades of proven experience and a reputation earned in the courtroom for successful results. Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board-certified criminal defense lawyer and a Board-certified DWI lawyer who not only fights on behalf of his clients but constantly gives back to the legal community to teach other attorneys how to do the same. Doug Murphy wins DWI cases routinely by challenging sobriety exercises, breath and blood testing. Contact Doug Murphy online or at 713-229-8333 today to discuss the circumstances of your case.