Anyone who has faced prosecution for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Houston can tell you that the process is never easy. The stress of potential jail time and fines alone can weigh heavily on anyone. This process has only become more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state of emergency declared by the Governor of Texas has thrown the state's judicial system into chaos. Hearings are being delayed and other cases are simply going unscheduled. Certain inmates face the possibility of early release from jail while others are waiting longer than normal due to the lack of court hearings. Below, we discuss a few of the important factors to consider following a DWI arrest during this challenging time.
Trials are on Hold
Any defendant expecting a trial for their DWI this spring might not get their day in court, as Harris County has canceled all jury trials from March through May 1. Each county is different, but these cancellations are common throughout the state. Any trials during that time frame have been postponed. These delays cannot be used against the state when calculating speedy trial time, either. In cases of a delayed jury trial, there is little a defendant in a DWI case can do but wait.
Some Inmates May Be Released Early
The situation for many that are incarcerated in the State of Texas has changed dramatically during the pandemic. Harris County promised the release of roughly 1,000 inmates in an effort to stem the spread of the virus in the county jail. However, this release is currently tied up in court.
The prospects for other defendants – particularly those facing DWI charges in rural district courts – are worse. In some cases, those awaiting trial could be in jail for months given how rarely court is held in small districts.
You Could Still Lose Your Driver's License
A critical thing to remember during this pandemic is that not every aspect of the government is on hold. In fact, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is largely operating like normal. This means if you do not act promptly, you could lose your driver's license within 40 days of your arrest.
Under state law, you have 15 days from the date of your arrest to request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing. If you fail to do so, the automatic suspension that comes with a DWI arrest will go into effect after 40 days. If you request a hearing, you will have the opportunity to fight back against this suspension.
Contacting a Lawyer is Still Vital
One thing that has not changed during this pandemic is the importance of skilled legal counsel. The charges against you are not going to go away due to these current circumstances, and the state will eventually be ready to move forward with the charges against you. The guidance of a dedicated attorney could make the difference in avoiding a conviction or not. Be sure to discuss your legal options with a Houston DWI defense attorney if you have been arrested for drinking and driving.