If the police arrest you for a DWI in Houston, you're probably and justifiably scared. Driving while intoxicated is a serious offense, and you may have no idea what to do next or who to call. First, it's important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. Next, you need to realize that you are innocent unless the government has enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and you have legal options.
What to Do Immediately After a DWI Arrest
Immediately after the police arrest you for DWI, you need to make some fast decisions. First, don't speak to the police except to provide your identifying information. Second, don't refuse a breath test. These tests are less reliable than blood tests and easier to challenge in court. Third, at the arraignment, do not plead guilty. Finally, contact a lawyer immediately.
You'll also face some immediate practical matters, including:
For most first DWI charges, you should be eligible for bail, and the court will typically set it at less than $2,000. Bail is an agreement between you and the court that you will appear for your DWI hearing. If you fail to appear, you will forfeit your bail, and the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. In some aggravated circumstances, like if the police accuse you of killing someone while driving intoxicated, you may have to wait for an arraignment or a judge to set bail.
When the police arrest you for an alleged DWI, they have some choices concerning your car. They can allow a sober and qualified passenger to drive your car home; they can wait at the scene for a friend or family member to get it, or they can impound the car and tow it. The police don't have any obligation to wait at the scene for someone to pick up your car as long as their choice is reasonable. You may need to use FindMyTowedCar.com or call the tow line at 713-308-8580.
- Figure out transportation
When the police arrest you for a suspected DWI, the state automatically suspends your license, and the police give you a pink slip to act as a temporary license. Without a license, you will need to figure out how to get to work or school. If you need to drive for your job, you'll need to discuss this with your employer to see if they can accommodate you or give you leave.
- Find an attorney
You can quickly challenge your license suspension and get temporary leave to drive, but you should consult an experienced DWI attorney to discuss your options. A DWI specialist can also discuss your options for challenging the DWI case against you and help you get your life back.
What Can a DWI Specialist Do to Help?
For your DWI charge, you'll face two processes – an administrative process to determine the fate of your license suspension and a criminal trial to determine your guilt or innocence for the DWI charge. An experienced DWI attorney can guide you through both matters and intimately understand the best defenses available for your case.
Administrative License Revocation Hearing
When arrested on a DWI charge, the state automatically suspends your driver's license. If you wish to challenge this, you need to request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing within 15 days of your arrest. If you miss this deadline, you'll have to wait until trial and a not guilty verdict to get your license back. If you request a hearing, you can drive until the judge renders a decision at your ALR hearing.
An ALR hearing is a full legal proceeding before an administrative law judge. The hearing will follow the rules of evidence and the Texas court. Therefore, your best chance at success is to hire a skilled DWI defense attorney. An ALR hearing can also give you a chance to see the state's evidence against you and help you and your attorney prepare for your DWI trial. An ALR hearing can also allow your attorney to lock witnesses into their testimony so they can't change their story at your DWI trial.
At the hearing, the state will need to show:
- Reasonable suspicion for the stop:
The state will need to prove that the officer had reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop. For example, if you were speeding or swerving on the road, the officer probably had reasonable suspicion for the stop.
- Probable cause for the arrest:
The state will need to prove that the arresting officer had probable cause for the DWI arrest, meaning it was more likely than not that you committed the alleged DWI. Support for the probable cause can include their observations during the traffic stop, results of a field sobriety test, and a breath test results.
- Your BAC was above the legal limit:
The state will need to show that you agreed to or refused a breath or blood test and that your result was above .08%, or .04% if you have a commercial driver's license. If they can't show this, the court won't uphold your license suspension.
DWI Trial and Common Defenses
At trial, an attorney that is a DWI specialist will know the best options to challenge your DWI charge. Some common defenses may involve:
- Challenging reasonable suspicion for the stop:
The state needs to prove that the police had reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop that led to your DWI arrest. The state can demonstrate this through the testimony of the arresting officer, police reports, and dashboard cameras showing that you were speeding, driving erratically, or rolled through a stop sign. Your attorney can also use inconsistencies in the reports or recordings to challenge the officer's version of the story.
- Challenging probable cause for your arrest:
The police must have probable cause to arrest you for DWI. To support this, the state may use officer testimony, police reports, or recordings that demonstrate your behavior during the traffic stop and how you did on field sobriety tests. Because many police wear body cameras or have dashboard cameras, your attorney can use them to challenge the arresting officer's testimony. If they claim you failed the field sobriety tests, but you look steady and balanced on the video, it's hard for the officer to maintain credibility.
- Challenging the BAC breath or blood tests:
While many people assume that a BAC test is a definitive test that they can't challenge, this is far from the truth. Breath tests don't directly measure the alcohol content in your blood or brain. They measure evaporated alcohol in your airway. Moreover, techs or police departments need to maintain the equipment and regularly calibrate it. As a result, these tests aren't always accurate. Blood tests are more accurate, but they also require properly calibrated equipment, proper processing, and a well-documented chain of custody. An experienced DWI attorney will know how to challenge all of these in court.
You've Beaten a DWI. What Next?
Now that you've been proven not guilty of driving while intoxicated, you should take action to ensure the police don't arrest you for suspected DWI again. A second, third, or subsequent DWI arrest will have you facing harsher penalties, more potential jail time, and a longer driver's license suspension.
- Know that it is not illegal to drink responsibly and then drive. Know that the odor of alcohol make police officer's suspicious that you are potentially intoxicated.
Even though you've beaten one DWI, you may not win a second time. Moreover, even if you aren't intoxicated, you now know that the police can easily mistake someone sober for someone impaired. Don't take that chance again.
- Drive carefully.
The initial traffic stop that led to your DWI arrest was probably a simple traffic violation. It's important to ensure that you follow all of the traffic laws scrupulously to avoid a future stop:
- Use your turn signal whenever you change lanes or turn;
- Come to a complete stop at all traffic signals and stop signs;
- Keep your registration sticker up to date;
- Ensure your lights and signals are always functioning, with no burned bulbs;
- Follow the speed limit and don't go too far under the speed limit; and
- Turn on your lights when it is dusk, dark, or raining.
Avoiding traffic violations can keep police from targeting you for a suspected DWI stop. A simple driving mistake can give a police officer reasonable suspicion to stop you.
DWI Specialist Attorney Doug Murphy has extensive experience helping clients get the best possible outcome for their DWI cases. He is Board Certified in DWI defense by the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Best Lawyers in America also recently named Doug the "Lawyer of the Year" for 2021 for DWI defense. Doug received this prestigious ranking through the peer reviews of his fellow Houston-area lawyers. He also served two consecutive terms on the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association board of directors and a DWI Committee co-chair.
Doug is passionate about helping his clients regain their lives after a DWI charge in Houston. He will work tirelessly to protect your rights. Call 713-229-8333 today to set up a consultation. You don't have to handle this arrest alone.