So, you were arrested for a DWI in Harris County, TX or somewhere another county in and outside Houston's metropolitan area, or somewhere else in Texas. You are worried about what this means and how it can affect your life. Maybe you are searching for housing. Maybe you are searching for full-time employment. Maybe your career is already established but requires a security clearance or a professional license -- like a pilot's license, medical license, or nursing license. Maybe you are in the middle of child custody. These and other things can be negatively impacted by a DWI charge and possible conviction. Whatever it is, anxiously you wait to hear about a court date.
But no news comes.
What does this mean? Has a DWI charge actually been filed against you? Here's what you should know if you have been arrested for a DWI and the case has not yet been filed.
Why can it take so long to file a DWI case against you in Harris County, TX?
The police charge you with an offense, but it is up to the prosecution to file those charges. In some cases, the prosecutor's office may be backed up and prioritize violent cases over non-violent cases, thus the reason why your DWI charge has not yet been filed. In other circumstances, the evidence may not be strong enough against you to file a case just yet. The prosecution may hold off filing a case until it believes it has a case to make. But in most criminal matters except for some of the most serious offenses, the State does not get all the time in the world to file a case.
Two examples of why filing a DWI case may take so long include:
- Many smaller Texas counties do not have a direct filing system and it takes time for the District or County Attorney to make their determination whether to accept charges long after an arrest. It is not uncommon for some counties to take up to a year to make this determination. This speaks simply to the limited resources in that county, not just the weight of the evidence in accepting or rejecting charges on a case.
- The blood sample proving the suspect's blood alcohol level was at or above 0.08% is missing. In these situations, that blood sample may be the only key evidence to convict you. The prosecutor will hold off filing charges until the blood sample is recovered.
- With regard to blood samples, when the sample is sent to the lab for analysis, it can sometimes take weeks or months before an official report is received.
- If your DWI was accompanied by an auto accident and persons were seriously injured and/or died, it may take time to for lab analysis of forensic evidence.
In all these cases, waiting on lab analysis or evidence is the primary cause for the delayed filing of a DWI case. A delay to file a DWI case will not benefit you in any way -- it will only stress you out. The only time it could be useful is if it was due to a mix-up with the blood sample. Missing evidence can mean the prosecutor will never have enough evidence to file a case against you, and the longer time passes, the harder it is for the prosecutor.
How long does the State have to file a DWI case against you?
If the prosecutor did not file charges at your arraignment hearing, you are still not quite out of the clear. The State may be waiting on evidence, as noted above. But the State can't take forever to file its case.
In the State of Texas like elsewhere, the prosecutor is limited on how much time it takes to file charges against a person when a statute of limitations applies. Some offenses like murder, sexual assault, or hit and run resulting in a death have no statute of limitations, which means the prosecutor can file a case against you tomorrow or five, ten, fifteen, or more years later -- if it has the evidence to support a case. In matters of DWI, there is a statute of limitations, but the period of time varies according to the circumstances surrounding the DWI.
- In misdemeanor DWI cases, like a first-time or second-time DWI, or a class C misdemeanor DUI for a minor, the statue of limitations is two years.
- In felony DWI cases, DWI with a child cases, or intoxication assault cases, the statute of limitations is three years. However, intoxication manslaughter has no statute of limitations and can be filed at any time.
Generally, the statute of limitations is not invoked because there is usually no need -- the prosecutor will usually take what evidence the police has for granted and assume there is a case.
What happens if a DWI case is not filed against you?
If a DWI case is not filed against you, be happy on your good fortune. But you may not be completely out of the clear until the statute of limitations expires. It is not until that time the police can no longer file a DWI charge against you. When the statute of limitations expires, you are free to live your life without the threat of the State suddenly filing charges against you. But you still need to expunge the records of your arrest.
You should remember, however, that you still have an arrest record. This record, too, can be problematic to someone who cares about his or her future and job prospects, among other things that an arrest record could negatively impact. Sometimes, when background checks are performed, an arrest record materializes. The person conducting the record check may not distinguish the arrest record from a conviction or criminal record. You will want to have the arrest record expunged as soon as you possible.
When is it time to retain the best DWI lawyer for you in Houston, TX?
It's always a good time to contact a DWI lawyer after you have been charged with a DWI rather than wait for the charges to be filed by the prosecution. An experienced DWI lawyer will listen to your case and provide advice on it. He or she will also be in a better position to communicate with the prosecutor on your behalf and convict the prosecutor to not file the charges. If you want to receive regular case updates so you are not fretting over it all the time, then you want a Board Certified DWI defense lawyer like Doug Murphy. If you want an attorney to can persuade a prosecutor to decline filing charges, then you want a top-notch board certified criminal defense attorney like Doug Murphy.
Doug Murphy knows how the police and the prosecutor's office operate. Doug Murphy is well-aware that you are worried about your case and will use his experience, resources, reputation, and insight to provide you with information throughout the process. Doug Murphy is the best attorney for you if you want to achieve the best possible result and then get on with your life. Contact our office today at (713) 229-8333 for a free initial consultation to discuss your case.