If a close friend or family member faces a DWI charge, it can be frightening and overwhelming. You're probably wondering what happens next, how you can help, and whether someone you love is going to jail. It's important not to panic. A DWI arrest isn't a conviction, and your loved one has options. Fortunately, this isn't something either of you will have to figure out on your own. An experienced Houston DWI lawyer can help guide you both through the process and find the best defense options for the DWI charge.
What to Do Immediately After a DWI Arrest
If your loved one or someone else calls you to let you know about a DWI arrest, there are a few things you'll probably want to do urgently, including finding your friend or family member, getting them out of jail, and finding their car.
Find Your Loved One
When the police arrest someone, they take them to a local police station for booking, which takes a few hours. After that, the police will transport most people to the Joint Processing Center in Harris County until they release them. To find them, you'll need your friend's name, social security number, and birthdate. You can use the Harris County Sherriff's Department online lookup tool or call the Houston Help Line at 713-837-0311.
Find the Car
After you've found your loved one, you'll probably need to locate the car they were driving. After a DWI arrest, the police can remain at the scene and wait for someone to come pick up the car. But they don't have to do that. Often the police will have the car towed. To find it, you can go to FindMyTowedCar.com. You'll need the plate number, the vehicle identification number (VIN), and other information about the car, like the make and model. A towed car will typically appear on the website about two hours after the police tow it.
Get Out of Jail
You may need to help bail your loved one out of jail, although the court will often release people arrested for a first DWI on their own recognizance. If you do need to post a bond or bail, a DWI attorney can help you with the process and help you figure out your options.
Take Care of Urgent Matters
Try to think about the urgent matters you can handle in the interim. If your loved one has children, you may need to make sure they get picked up from school, a babysitter, or have an adult at home. You may need to walk the dog, scoop the litter box, or feed the goldfish. If your friend or family member asks for help, you may need to call their boss and let them know they're "indisposed" for a day and won't be in.
The Administrative License Revocation Process
After a DWI arrest, one of the most urgent matters for many people is figuring out transportation. When the police arrest someone for a DWI, they will confiscate their Texas driver's license when they release them. In its place, the police will give them a pink sheet of paper that serves as a temporary license for 40 days. After 40 days, Texas automatically suspends their license until a court resolves the pending DWI charge.
The revocation of a Texas driver's license happens in an administrative proceeding separate from the criminal DWI process. Your loved one can appeal this automatic suspension process in an Administrative License Revocation hearing. They must request an ALR hearing within 15 days after their arrest. If they fail to request the hearing within that time, Texas will automatically suspend their license after 40 days. If they request a hearing, they can continue to drive using the "pink paper" until the court resolves the ALR hearing.
An ALR hearing is a formal evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge in court. Both the prosecutor and your loved one's attorney will have the chance to present evidence and witnesses and cross-examine the other party's witnesses. During the hearing, your loved one's attorney will have the opportunity to force the state to meet its burden of proof and show that:
- The initial traffic stop was valid,
- The police had probable cause for the arrest, and
- The results of the BAC testing were accurate and reliable.
If your loved one's attorney successfully challenges any of these elements, they will win the ALR hearing. If your loved one is successful in this hearing, the prosecution may drop the DWI case. Even if they aren't successful in the ALR hearing, it's a great opportunity for your loved one's attorney to get a sneak peek at the evidence the state will present in the DWI trial.
Common DWI Defenses
After an ALR hearing, your loved one will prepare for a trial in their DWI case. Just as with the ALR hearing, both parties can introduce witnesses and evidence and cross-examine the other party's witnesses. An experienced DWI attorney will be in their element in a DWI trial and may introduce several defenses on your loved one's behalf, including:
- Challenging whether the police had reasonable suspicion for the initial traffic stop,
- Challenging the results of field sobriety tests,
- Challenging whether the police had probable cause for the BAC testing or the DWI arrest,
- Challenging BAC blood or breath test accuracy and validity,
- Moving the court to suppress key evidence,
- Challenging witness testimony, including the arresting officer,
- Challenging violations of your constitutional rights, like your right to remain silent, your right to have an attorney present during questioning, and improper search and seizure.
Retain a true Expert in Texas DWI Defense
If a friend or loved one is facing a DWI charge in Houston, they're going to need skilled legal guidance as soon as possible. The financial and social consequences of a DWI in Texas can be high, and this isn't something anyone should try to navigate independently.
Attorney Doug Murphy is an expert in DWI defense and is Board Certified in DWI defense and criminal defense law. He is one of only two attorneys in Texas with board certifications in both of these specialty areas of the law. U.S. News and World Report also recently named Doug a 2021 Houston Lawyer of the Year for DWI defense. The seasoned DWI defense attorneys at the Doug Murphy Law Firm can help your loved one too. Contact them online or at (713) 229-8333 today to set up a consultation.