In Texas, a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit of .08% can result in arrest and being charged with a DWI, or “driving while intoxicated.” If you are convicted of a first-time DWI, the law requires a minimum sentence of at least 72 hours in jail. Additionally, your driver's license may be suspended for a minimum of 90 days. This is why you need to fight your DWI charges. Board Certified DWI Attorney Doug Murphy works up every case as if it is going to trial. This is the only way to ensure he knows every fact and legal issue in a case.
A DWI charge is a serious criminal charge and requires significant care and attention. There are many effective approaches to a DWI case. Most of the time taking a case to trial, or having the charges thrown out, is the main and best strategy. There are cases, however, that can benefit from a plea negotiation that is in your best interest depending on the facts of your case. A lawyer who is Board Certified in DWI Defense can help you explore your options, and know when and what terms of a plea bargain are beneficial.
WHAT IS A PLEA BARGAIN NEGOTIATION?
A plea bargain negotiation is when your attorney and the prosecutor negotiate a resolution to your case that avoids taking the case to a trial. Prosecutors throughout the United States, and here in Texas, have way more cases than they can try. This overload of casework creates an incentive to negotiate a plea before it goes to trial. When the prosecutor and your DWI Defense lawyer agree to a plea bargain, it means that the prosecutor either lowers the type of charge or reduces your sentence, in exchange for your agreement to plead guilty. This can be beneficial if the charge is reduced and/or if the plea agreement significantly lowers the punishment received. If neither of these take place in a plea bargain, then it may not be in your best interest to accept the plea agreement.
TYPES OF PLEA NEGOTIATIONS
There are two types of plea bargains that your DWI Defense attorney may bring you: A charge reduction plea bargain and a sentence reduction plea bargain. A charge reduction is always the better option of the two, as they are not able to be used as an enhancement. What this means is that in the future, if a DWI charge was reduced to a reckless driving charge, the reckless driving charge would not be able to be used as an enhancement to make a future DWI arrest an automatic DWI-2nd charge.
CHARGE REDUCTION PLEA BARGAIN
A charge reduction plea bargain occurs when the prosecutor agrees to lower the type of charge in exchange for your agreement to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Your attorney and the prosecutor would negotiate this contractual agreement. A skilled and Board Certified DWI defense lawyer would be able to identify reasons that the prosecutor might be willing to reduce the charge. An example of a charge reduction might be that instead of your DWI charge, the prosecutor agrees to reduce the charges to public intoxication, reckless driving or obstruction of a highway.
SENTENCE REDUCTION PLEA BARGAIN
Sentence reduction plea bargains are not as preferable as charge reduction plea bargains. They can, however, be a good option for you, depending on the facts of your case. In this case, you would usually agree to plead guilty in exchange for the mandatory minimum sentence, rather than a more severe sentence if the case goes to trial. The decision whether to accept a plea bargain always rests with the client after being fully informed of the facts of the case, the applicable law and made known all the legal consequences of accepting the plea bargain.
WHY BOTHER TRYING TO NEGOTIATE MY DWI CHARGE?
Although plea negotiations are a last line of defense, they are still an important one. Your attorney may consider plea negotiation if it seems unlikely that the charges can be dismissed or that the facts do not indicate that a jury most likely would not render a “not guilty” verdict. In this instance, reduced charges can have an impact on your future, especially as DWI misdemeanors are criminal charges.
- Quicker resolution of your case
- Possibly better outcome than expected
- Lesser charges and lower penalties and punishment
WHY WOULD A PROSECUTOR AGREE TO REDUCE MY DWI CHARGE?
There are several different reasons that a prosecutor might agree to reduce your DWI charge. To convict for a DWI charge, the prosecutor has to prove three legal elements associated with your case.
- You operated a motor vehicle.
- You operated a motor vehicle in a public space
- At the time that you operated the motor vehicle, you lacked the physical or mental capacity to do so safely.
Of these three elements, the third is the hardest to prove. Often police will use field sobriety tests, or they will attempt to obtain a BAC, using a breathalyzer or a blood test. A Board Certified DWI defense attorney can point out the unreliability of the tests or find a potential procedural error in the field sobriety test.
In addition to these procedural errors, there could be other factors at play, such as the violation of your legal rights. A Board Certified DWI defense attorney can make certain to explore all of these avenues. Some examples of potential violations include:
- Lack of probable cause to arrest you
- Failure to issue the proper Miranda warning upon arrest (notifying you of your statutory rights)
- Lack of reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop in the first place
HOW HARD IS IT TO GET SOMETHING DISMISSED AND WHAT IS THE RATE OF DISMISSAL?
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, for the year of 2018, Texas law enforcement agents reported 97,660 DWI charges. This was an increase from 2017 (90,376), and 2016 (88,163). The first thing to note is that over two years there have been nearly 10,000 more charges.
Working from the complete figures of 2017, you'll see that of those charges, just over 4,000 of them resulted in “release with no charges.” So, out of about 86,000 cases that resulted in DWI charges, only 52,076 pled guilty, which is roughly 60% of the cases. From there, of those 52,000, prosecutors convicted about 70% on the original offense, 30% on something other than the original offense, and 15% of the cases were dismissed.
It can be hard to calculate the exact rate of dismissal; However, you can see from above that there are good chances of plea negotiations and dismissals being successful. In 2016, an article reported, “According to Travis County Attorney's office, 37 percent of all first time DWI cases are re-filed as other charges, like obstruction, received deferred prosecution or a dismissal.”
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE REDUCED CHARGES?
There are a variety of reduced charges available when your DWI defense attorney enters into plea negotiations with a prosecutor. They may include:
- Reckless Driving: This reduction can reduce your felony charge to a misdemeanor, making it a very appealing option, if your DWI charge is classified as a felony.
- Obstruction of a passageway: This is a common lesser charge, and as such it carries a Class B misdemeanor, rather than a Class A misdemeanor. A lesser charge could mean a better sentence and fewer long-term repercussions.
- Public Intoxication
There are other charges a DWI can be reduced to as well. The point is that there can be a huge benefit of reduced charges is that there is also potentially a reduced sentence. DWI charges can have a long-term impact on your ability to obtain clearance for employment and to drive, among other things. Reduced charges can help avoid professional and governmental license consequences that would occur in the event of DWI conviction, but do not occur with a reduced charge. Board Certified DWI Lawyer Doug Murphy works with all types of professionals and licensing issues to ensure that in the event of a reduced charge that no licensing issues will ensue.
WHAT IMPACT DOES A PRIOR CONVICTION HAVE ON MY PLEA NEGOTIATIONS?
It's key to remember that each situation is unique when it comes to plea negotiations and DWI charges. In Texas, when you have prior convictions, it can make it more difficult to strike a plea bargain, once the judge or prosecutor is aware of the circumstances. Different plea bargain options may be available to you, depending on your prior history of charges or convictions. A lawyer who is Board Certified in Criminal and DWI Defense will be able to examine your particular circumstances and compare them to the current Texas statutes and legislation to best advise.
HOW CAN A DWI LAWYER HELP WITH DWI PLEA NEGOTIATIONS?
DWI law is a very specialized area of practice. Not only are DWIs considered criminal charges, but they also make use of very specific testing practices and protocols. A Board Certified DWI lawyer will have the most comprehensive knowledge and experience of the intricacies associated with this area of the law.
When a prosecutor considers a DWI plea negotiation, they keep several factors in mind, including:
- Previous criminal charges
- Whether or not a crash or injuries took place, in conjunction with the DWI
- The extent to which your BAC was over the .08% legal limit, according to their claims.
- Your conduct and the conduct of the police officer at the time of your arrest.
- The experience and ability of your lawyer to persuade a judge and/or jury on a legal or fact issue in a motion to suppress or a jury trial
A Board Certified DWI lawyer knows all of these factors and can consider them as he fights for your best interests.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CASE AT THE COUNTY COURT IN TEXAS VS AT THE DISTRICT COURT IN TEXAS?
Texas has a two-tier court system for processing its DWI offenders. At the County Court level, the prosecutors try first-time offenders that do not have felony charges. In contrast, District Courts are responsible for trying multiple offenders or cases that have felony charges.
YOUR BEST DEFENSE
If you've been arrested for DWI charges, you want a Board Certified DWI defense lawyer who knows the law and who can strategically execute a plan to best win your case. A Board Certified DWI Lawyer always works the case up for trial. By doing so, the lawyer knows every fact and legal issue in your case. In certain situations, the strategy may be to enter into plea negotiations with the prosecutor. Our team at Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. can be your advocate and partner in winning your DWI case with the best possible outcome. With more than twenty years of experience, including experience as a prosecutor, our team of lawyers is here to walk with you during this frightening time. Contact us today to discuss your case and we can begin working on your defense approach.