If you are facing an arrest on a charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Houston, the experience can be traumatic. This is especially true if you have been arrested for the first time. It is understandable if you have lots of questions. How long will you be in jail? What can you do to help your case? Are you going to lose your driver's license? While having questions is understandable, know that law enforcement officers are the last people you want to seek answers from.
Even after you have been arrested, every word you say could be held against you at trial. Law enforcement might seem helpful, but their primary concern is obtaining enough evidence to convict you. A skilled attorney could not only answer your questions but guide you through the process following your arrest.
The time following your arrest is important. Some steps you take could help your case while others could doom it. Because of what's at stake, the steps you take immediately after an arrest are critical. Below, we discuss the most important steps to protect your legal rights. For an in-depth discussion of your legal rights, contact Board Certified DWI Attorney Doug Murphy right away.
What to do After a DWI Arrest in Houston
Each of the following steps can play an important role in protecting your legal rights. Keep each of them in mind throughout the course of your case.
You have the right to remain silent after you a DWI arrest in Houston. Take advantage of that right. Thanks to the protections provided by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, you cannot be compelled to testify against yourself. That does not mean the police can't use your voluntary statements against you. Police are listening carefully to everything you say from the moment they first make contact with you, and the risks of speaking with police are significant.
While the police cannot force you to discuss your case, there is some limited background information they are entitled to. If you refuse to comply with these requests, you will face additional criminal charges. When you have been arrested for DWI you must provide your name, residence, and date of birth. What's more, it is unlawful to provide false information related to any of these three things.
Your rights will only protect you if you take advantage of them, however. Any information you volunteer to police can wind up as evidence against you at trial. Police are experts at taking statements out of context, which means innocent statements or even jokes could be used as evidence that you were intoxicated. Remaining silent could prevent you from significantly harming your case.
Following an arrest for DWI in Harris County, you will be taken to the Harris County Jail Inmate Processing Center in Houston for processing. After you are fingerprinted, you may find out how long you could be in custody. In most cases, you will be required to remain in jail until you are sober. For most first-time offenders, you will then be released on your own recognizance. That means you will be allowed to remain free without posting bond.
In some cases, you could be held in jail until you can post a bond. A bail bondsman can help you get out of jail pending trial, but you will be required to pay an upfront fee. As a condition of your bond, you will be required to attend all court hearings and meet other conditions set by the court. The sooner you are able to get out of jail, the sooner you can discuss your case with an experienced lawyer.
Hire a Lawyer
You have the right to hire the defense attorney of your choice at any point in your DWI case. However, the sooner you select an attorney, the sooner your counsel can begin working on your case. That does not mean you should simply hire the first attorney you find. Hundreds of lawyers in the Houston area hold themselves out as defense lawyers. That requires some effort to find the right attorney for you.
There are several important considerations to keep in mind when searching for a defense attorney. Trial experience is one of the best markers of an experienced defense lawyer. An attorney with trial experience can provide you with insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your case that other attorneys cannot.
In addition to experience, it is important to understand an attorney's approach to each case. At your initial consultation, it is always a good idea to ask how an attorney has handled cases similar to yours in the past. One valuable piece of information is understanding your attorney's approach to trial. Some attorneys are content with pushing their clients to accept plea offers and move on to the next case. Attorneys like Doug Murphy, however, never shy away from trial. It is his belief that preparing every case as if it will ultimately go to trial puts his clients in the best position.
Finally, there are important certifications to consider. In Texas, attorneys can become board-certified experts in particular fields of the law. There are certifications in both DWI defense and criminal defense. These certifications take extensive experience and skill to acquire, which makes them a helpful indicator of a skilled defense attorney.
Attend your Arraignment
Whether you remain in custody or are released on bond, it is imperative that you appear at your arraignment. Failing to appear at your arraignment or any other court date can result in the revocation of your bond. Additionally, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest for failing to appear.
The arraignment is the first official hearing in your case. If you have not been released on your own recognizance, it is at this hearing that the judge could set the bond amount.
Additionally, the court will also ask that you enter an initial plea at arraignment. You have the option to plead either guilty or not guilty. Pleading guilty at arraignment is a mistake, given that you give up your right to an attorney, a trial, or an appeal. What's more, you risk facing the maximum punishment available. If you plead not guilty, the case will continue on, allowing you the chance to build a winning defense with your legal counsel. One of the major benefits of hiring an attorney early on in a case is that they can appear on your behalf.
Request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearing
While your criminal case should be a pressing concern following a DWI arrest in Houston, you often have some time to decide on a plan of action. Your time is far more limited when it comes to protecting your driver's license, however. You only have 15 days to request an administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing following your arrest. If you fail to request a hearing, your license will be automatically suspended. If you timely request a hearing, the automatic suspension will be legally stayed and will not be suspended, if at all, until after the ALR hearing takes place.
Every DWI arrest results in an automatic license suspension unless you fight back. The good news is that it is possible to prevail in an ALR hearing much like it is at trial. But defending your license is impossible if you fail to request a hearing on time.
Another valuable quality in a DWI defense attorney is experience with ALR hearings. In fact, it is important to determine your attorney is willing to handle your ALR hearing, too. You may learn too late that many attorneys refuse to take on the challenge of the ALR process. Skilled legal counsel is important in these proceedings, even though they are not a criminal trial. ALR hearings are formal and involve a complex set of rules.
What's more, these hearings allow your attorney to preview the case against you. That is because the officer or officers responsible for your arrest must appear at the hearing and testify. This serves as a deposition of sorts, where your attorney can ask questions and pin down an officer on their version of events.
While the goal of an ALR hearing is to reverse the suspension of your license, it can also pay dividends in your criminal case.
Houston DWI Defense Attorney Doug Murphy
For many, an arrest under suspicion of driving while intoxicated is as good as a conviction. The prosecuting attorney has the investigative power of law enforcement and the full support of the State of Texas. Fighting back against these charges can seem pointless, even when they have a potentially strong defense. It is important to know that DWI charges are defensible, and in many cases, you can prevail despite the significant resources the State of Texas has at its disposal.
Attorney Doug Murphy has dedicated his career to fighting for the legal rights of his accused. He has won acquittals on DWI cases in Houston and throughout Harris County. His aggressive approach has repeatedly resulted in favorable results for his clients. As one of only two attorneys in Texas to hold Board Certification as an expert in DWI defense law and criminal defense law, he offers the skill and experience that could help you beat the DWI charges against you.
To learn more, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away.