Most people don’t know about the potential consequences that come from a Driving While Intoxicated arrest(DWI). For example, they don’t know that each arrest really represents two different actions, the criminal case itself, and an Administrative License Revocation or “ALR”. The police aren’t very helpful in explaining it either, and will merely read you a long and confusing statutory warning. They expect you to understand this warning and make some informed decisions, even though they’re accusing you of being intoxicated at the time. Another example that neither the prosecutor or police will tell you about is that if you are eventually convicted, you will have to pay a surcharge to the Department of Public Safety of $1000 per year for three years, just to keep your driver’s license. For holders of commercial driver’s licenses, a DWI conviction may mean you’re looking for a new job.
A lot of people try to represent themselves in DWI’s, at least initially. There are a number of reasons for this, including lack of financial resources, and a simple lack of knowledge about the very real deadlines they face. This results in them letting the 15-day deadline pass for requesting an Administrative License Revocation hearing, resulting in an automatic suspension of their driver’s license on the 40th day after arrest. This also results in forfeiting one of your best opportunities to get an early look at the case. By the time you reach trial on the criminal case, the prosecutor will have had ample time to view the video of your arrest, speak with the officer, anticipate problems with the state’s case, and prepare the officer’s testimony to overcome those problems. None of this is true at the Administrative License Revocation hearing. The DPS prosecutor rarely speaks with the officers beforehand, has not had access or time to view the video, and most importantly, has not prepared the officer’s testimony ahead of time. I have found that this often results in officers testifying much more truthfully than they otherwise would, and you very often get excellent information that can help you not only at the ALR hearing, but with regard to the criminal case itself. An ALR hearing essentially represents free discovery for the defense, because if the officer says something good for you, his or her testimony is locked in and cannot be changed later. And if information damaging to the defense is disclosed, it’s rare for that information to make its way to the county prosecutor.
These are just some of the reasons it’s important to have an attorney on your side as soon as possible following an arrest for DWI. An attorney can help you navigate the complex maze that is DWI defense, and help you minimize the very real consequences of a DWI conviction. DWI cases, particularly those that involve breath or blood test evidence, are highly technical cases, and the most non-lawyers will not have the knowledge necessary to fully defend their rights. In addition, Driving While Intoxicated is the only misdemeanor offense in the Texas Penal Code for which you are automatically IN-eligible to receive Deferred Adjudication. This means that unlike any other misdemeanor offense (and most felonies as well), you cannot serve a term of probation and then get the charge dismissed. If you receive a conviction for DWI, you’re going to have it on your record permanently. This can result in difficulty gaining entry to institutions of higher learning, the loss of job opportunities, and can even effect your living arrangements if you reside in an apartment.
For all these reasons and many more besides, do yourself a favor. If you’ve been arrested for DWI, contact an attorney immediately. You’ll be glad you did.