Why DWI Defendants Ask About Chances
Here's what every DWI defendant wants to know: what are my chances of winning or losing on the charge? It's a good question. DWI defendants are right to focus on the outcome. DWI defendants generally know or soon learn that they can have a lot riding on a DWI case. A first DWI conviction can bring jail time up to 180 days, a $3,000 fine, and loss of driving privileges. Aggravating factors like a minor child in the vehicle, blood alcohol of .15 or above, or injuries to or death of vehicle occupants or pedestrians can increase the penalties to up to twenty years in prison and a $10,000 fine. DWI convictions of any kind can also bring collateral consequences like job loss, loss of professional licenses or certifications, loss of security clearances and gun permits, and even deportation if you are in the U.S. on a visa or undocumented. So it's natural that DWI defendants want to know their chances. If a DWI defendant stands no chance of avoiding conviction, then what difference does a defense make?
What Texas DWI Statistics Show
Statistics do give some broad brushes as to what might happen in a DWI case. The Texas Department of Public Safety's Crime Records Division reports 2020 DWI statistics showing 83,088 DWI charges in the state that year against just 3,275 releases with no charge. The vast majority of DWI arrests result in a DWI or DWI-related charge. Of those many individuals charged with a Texas DWI in 2020, 33,476 pled guilty to the charge, while the state's report shows only 1,826 not guilty pleas. Although the state's statistics do not account for all dispositions, of the recorded pleas, vastly more defendants plead guilty than plead not guilty. And nearly every defendant pleading guilty to a DWI essentially has no chance left of beating the charge. The state's statistics also show 23,258 convictions on the original charge against 10,302 convictions of a different charge than the original, presumably representing mostly plea bargains down from the original charge. But here's a key statistic: the state reports 6,771 charge dismissals. Again, the statistics don't all add up, perhaps because some 2020 cases could be pending. And interpreting the statistics is thus not quite so simple. But 3,275 releases and 6,771 dismissals out of 83,088 DWI charges means that DWI defendants do have real and substantial chances to beat the charge.
Why Every Case Is Unique
So a fair question deserves a fair answer, and the above statistics suggest some very broad answers. But the better answer is that it's not that simple. DWI cases are not like rolling dice or drawing another card from the deck. Each DWI case is truly unique. No two individuals are exactly alike. And when you mix in all the innumerable material variables surrounding a DWI arrest, you realize that every case's outcome depends on its own facts. Things like the quantity and type of alcohol or drug consumed, the rate of consumption, the time elapsed since consumption, whether the defendant also consumed food, the defendant's weight and sex, the testing method, the test sample type, the test sample's storage, the individual testing device, the device's calibration, the specific use of the device, the readout, and the interpretation of the readout can all affect a blood alcohol test result. Even atmospheric conditions can be a factor. Even if blood test results were perfectly routine and fungible, every case would still depend on multiple other variables like the probable cause for the stop, reasonable suspicion of intoxication, presence or absence of a warrant or driver consent, officer's requests or commands, driver's response, and field sobriety test form, conduct, results, and interpretation. A dozen or even a hundred other factors can influence a case. So, don't assume that DWI outcomes are like rolls of the dice. They are not. Your outcome depends on your case.
What Winning DWI Defense Really Means
Determining what is a win and what is a loss can also be tricky in DWI defense. In DWI defense, there is winning, and then there is winning. Each DWI defendant has slightly different goals. Sure, the goal of every DWI defendant is to avoid conviction. But avoiding conviction for some defendants might mean avoiding a more-serious conviction on an aggravated charge, like intoxication assault with a penalty of up to ten years in prison or intoxication manslaughter with a penalty of up to twenty years in prison, in favor of a lesser charge, like a first-time DWI offense with a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a good likelihood of much less jail time. A few days in jail for a first-time DWI offense is a huge win over twenty years in prison for intoxication manslaughter. Likewise, Texas's deferred adjudication program, though onerous in some respects, can be a huge win for DWI defendants who must, for job or other purposes, avoid at all costs a DWI conviction. So be careful how you count a win or loss. What might be a win for someone else could be a loss for you, and vice versa. Your case is unique. Respect your individual interests.
What Really Makes the Difference
Probabilities, then, are not the real thing. As the above statistics show, a DWI arrest is not a conviction. You may not have committed the DWI crime for which police arrested you, or you may have one of many good DWI defenses even if prosecutors have DWI evidence. Your retained DWI Specialist defense attorney may successfully challenge sobriety, breath, or blood tests, leading to their suppression as evidence or a jury's determination not to give the tests any weight. Authorities may have violated your constitutional rights, so that the judge throws out the evidence on your retained DWI Specialist defense attorney's motion to suppress. Instead, retain Texas Board Certified DWI Specialist Doug Murphy. Attorney Murphy is Best Lawyers' 2023 Houston DWI Lawyer of the Year. Attorney Murphy is also one of only two Texas attorneys who holds both DWI Board Certification and Criminal Law Certification. Call (713) 229-8333 or go online now for premier DWI defense. Don't let probabilities dictate your outcome. Trust attorney Murphy for your best possible outcome.