You often hear attorneys say you can probably get your charges reduced. Reduction of DWI charges does take place in some jurisdictions in Texas, but not all jurisdictions. Some counties are all or nothing. But when attorneys say you may be able to get the DWI charges reduced, whether a reduction of charge is a good thing is always dependent on the facts of your case. After all, reduced charges are often met with a lighter sentence. That's what these attorneys focus on: you get less time in jail or, better yet, no jail time!
The key focus needs to be the long term effect of what could still end up on your criminal record. And for people who have their professional careers, education, families, and reputation at stake – that matters, and it matters a lot.
So, you ask: what's the real impact if your DWI charges are reduced? Is it a good thing? Or not-so-good thing? Here's what those DWI charge reductions mean. Once you know the truth, you can make an informed decision.
When are DWI Charges in Houston Reduced to Lesser Offenses?
Many criminal attorneys will negotiate with the prosecutor to get your charges reduced or move the court to lessen the charges.
To succeed at getting your charges reduced, there are many factors the prosecutor and judge will consider. These may include things like:
- your criminal record – is this your first DWI offense and have you ever been convicted of anything else?
- your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) – were you below or above the .08 percent legal limit, and if over, were you at or over .15 percent?
- any refusal to submit to a chemical test – did you refuse a breath test and was a warrant required in order to get a blood sample?
- any field sobriety tests undertaken – if so, were they administered properly and how did you score?
- any viable challenges to breath test or blood test – was the equipment calibrated properly, were the samples handled properly, were there any other mistakes in the process?
- any constitutional violations present – did the police improperly conduct a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion, unlawfully search your person or property, fail to read you the Miranda warning, or fail to have probable cause for the arrest?
- any accidents, injuries, or fatalities – was there and accident, was property damaged or was anyone hurt and to what extent?
- any children in the vehicle – at the time of the DWI arrest, were there children 15 or younger in the vehicle?
- your behavior – were you polite and cooperative or were you belligerent to the police and is there a video proving it?
- police conduct – did the police treat you bad or was their conduct within the law?
If your conduct was overall good and/or there were weaknesses in the case, the prosecutor is more likely to consider reducing the charges. This would be done through a plea bargain negotiation. So, you waive your right not only to defend against the DWI but also against the reduced charges. You effectively plead guilty to the lesser charges. That could still mean you end up with a criminal record depending on how the reduction is negotiated to leave a window of opportunity to avoid a criminal record.
On the other hand, if it is your first offense, then you could be offered deferred adjudication. The laws changed in 2019 and now this program is available in DWI cases. But it is not a true deferred adjudication and there are many pitfalls associated with a deferred adjudication DWI that is not present on any crime resolved with deferred adjudicated. The program is strict and invasive. One mistake can land you back before the judge for a sentence that could be harsher than if you were originally convicted of the DWI.
What Offenses are DWI Charges often Reduced To in Houston?
When DWI charges are reduced, the most common crimes they are reduced to include:
- reckless driving, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 30 days, a fine of up to $200, and driver's license suspension;
- obstruction a highway or passageway, which carries up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000; or
- public intoxication, which carries a fine of up to $500.
There are a handful of other common reductions we have successfully obtained that are fact-specific reductions. You could still risk jail time with some reduced charges, but the possibility – especially for a first-time offense – is greatly reduced. Plus, you don't have the stigma that a DWI conviction carries with it.
What are the Pros & Cons of Accepting Reduced Charges?
There are advantages and disadvantages of reduced charges through plea bargaining. Here is an overview of what these are.
1. Uncertainty v. Certainty
A plea deal that gets you reduced charges removes all uncertainty from the case. You know what you are getting. At the same time, however, you are certain to be convicted of something. You waive your right through the plea deal to defend yourself.
2. Timing v. Day in Court
A plea deal occurs relatively early in the case and allows you to avoid a trial. But you don't get to have your day in court where you have the opportunity to persuade a jury to find you not guilty.
3. Limited Investigation v. Thorough Investigation
When a prosecutor and an attorney know they'll negotiate a plea deal, the investigation into your DWI stops. What evidence could have been uncovered in your favor or any evidence to counter the State's claims against you will not be discovered. But if you go to trial, Doug Murphy, an experienced trial defense attorney, will continue an aggressive and thorough investigation.
4. Appeal to Immediate Relief or Appeal a Guilty Verdict
A plea deal is appealing because it can offer immediate relief, depending on what the actual deal is. But it also denies you the ability to appeal the conviction. Only by going to trial can you appeal a guilty verdict.
5. Criminal Record v. Acquittal
A plea deal leaves you with a criminal record while fighting the charges opens the opportunity for an acquittal at trial – especially when you retain a strong, experienced DWI trial attorney.
It is in many ways a gamble. You have to weigh these pros and cons for yourself, or contact an experienced Board Certified attorney, like Doug Murphy, who can elaborate on them and explain how they may apply to your unique case.
Contact in Houston if You Want to Fight Your DWI Charges?
Doug Murphy is the type of DWI attorney who prefers to get your charges dismissed or you acquitted at trial. He doesn't like criminal records. He knows how a record can harm a person's career and deeply impact the quality of life – and therein lies the true impact of reduced charges: you still suffer the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. So, Doug Murphy fights. And he fights for you.
As one of only two attorneys in all of Texas who simultaneously holds Board Certification in DWI defense and Board Certification in criminal law, he has the skill, insight, and commitment to help you avoid a criminal record. Testimonials and case results attest to his capabilities. Plus, he is well-known in the legal community for his DWI track record and, as such, is asked to speak at conferences across Texas and the United States.
Contact his office today at (713) 229-8333to learn more about his approach to DWI defense and to determine if it is right for you.