A DWI can get you into a lot of trouble, especially if you are convicted. For first-time offenders now, you can finally get your DWI expunged after all is said and done. But for DWI offenders who are on their third or more DWI, expungement is not a possibility and the punishment is all the more severe. Fighting the DWI is important to your freedom and rights.
What's more, if the DWI is a felony, your case may first go to a grand jury. That sounds even more intimidating than a “regular” jury and may cause you to think twice about fighting it. We are here to inform you that a grand jury should not prevent you from fighting a felony DW. Either way, we are also here to inform you what a grand jury is and when it applies in DWI cases. This information can help you make the decision to fight your DWI or not.
What is a grand jury?
When a prosecutor indicts someone of a felony DWI, the prosecutor presents the indictment to a grand jury. A grand jury is a group of 12 citizens from the community who are selected to review these felony criminal charges and to determine if there was probable cause to move the case forward. There must be a minimum of nine votes to move the case forward. If the nine votes are not obtained, the charges cannot be filed.
A grand jury is distinguished from a trial jury that is made up of 6 persons for misdemeanor crimes and 12 persons for felony crimes. Trial juries hear the trial and determine guilty or not guilty verdicts.
Must members of a Texas grand jury qualify for it?
A grand jury is serious business. People who may have never studied law or have never had anything to do with the law are suddenly decision-makers of the law and its applicability in DWI cases. Here, as in trial juries, there are basic qualifications, and they are that a juror is a U.S. citizen, 18 years old, and a resident of the state or county to which he or she is to serve on the jury. Texas Penal Code § 19.08 expects a little more from its grand jurors. The complete qualifications include:
(1) is at least 18 years of age;
(2) is a citizen of the United States;
(3) is a resident of this state, and of the county in which the person is to serve;
(4) is qualified under the Constitution and laws to vote in the county in which the grand jury is sitting, regardless of whether the person is registered to vote;
(5) is of sound mind and good moral character;
(6) is able to read and write;
(7) has not been convicted of misdemeanor theft or a felony;
(8) is not under indictment or other legal accusation for misdemeanor theft or a felony;
(9) is not related within the third degree of consanguinity or second degree of affinity, as determined under Chapter 573, Government Code, to any person selected to serve or serving on the same grand jury;
(10) has not served as grand juror in the year before the date on which the term of court for which the person has been selected as grand juror begins; and
(11) is not a complainant in any matter to be heard by the grand jury during the term of court for which the person has been selected as a grand juror.
When will a person arrested for DWI have a grand jury proceeding to determine if he or she will be indicted?
There are a few cases where a person arrested for a DWI will be burdened by a grand jury proceeding. Only where the DWI is a felony will the prosecutor use a grand jury to confirm it has evidence enough to indict. Felony DWI include:
Is there anything you can do about a Texas grand jury proceeding?
No. There is not much to be done. In Harris County District Courts, only the following are allowed to attend the grand jury proceeding:
- The prosecutor
- The bailiffs
- The witness or accused as a witness, and of course,
- The grand jurors.
Under some circumstances or when necessary, an interpreter, stenographer, or video operator may be permitted. Your attorney will not be able to attend the grand jury even if you testify, but you are permitted counsel. Your attorney can remain in the hall and you have the right to confer with him or her if you have questions.
What should I expect from a DWI grand jury in Harris County?
Grand juries are intimidating but that intimidation falls to the side once you know what to expect from them. Basically, the prosecutor lays out the facts -- according to the State of Texas -- of the case. Evidence can be presented via documents or testimony. Witnesses, including the accused, are asked questions by both the prosecutor and the jurors. Once testimony concludes, the jurors will deliberate in private and then a vote is taken. Depending on that vote, an indictment will or will not be made. A true bill means an indictment and a felony will be filed while a no bill means the grand jury believes probable cause does not exist.
The prosecutor should provide all the evidence, including exculpatory and mitigating evidence. But in Harris County, you can be sure that will not happen in many cases. Fortunately, defendants are sometimes permitted to present a "grand jury packet" that includes a legal brief, affidavit taken under oath, exhibits, and any evidence in your possession. But in some cases, given the specific variables of your case, a grand jury packet may not be in your best interest.
This is where an experienced DWI attorney is important. Doug Murphy will determine if a grand jury packet works to your benefit. If so, he will compile the evidence in your favor and lay it out strategically in the written form. In many cases, this alone can be enough to return a "no bill" from a grand jury.
Contact Board Certified DWI Felony Attorney in Houston, TX
If you have been charged with a felony DWI or have received a grand jury letter and believe it is for a DWI incident, contact an experienced Board Certified DWI attorney immediately. Doug Murphy has the experience and insight you need. Contact his office today either online or at (713) 229-8333 to discuss your DWI felony case.