Being charged with a DWI in Hays County Texas can have life changing consequences, resulting in difficulty finding employment or housing, sky high insurance rates, and even the loss of one’s right to vote for an extended period. Even those lucky enough to receive a reduced charge or plea bargain are likely to have wasted months navigating the complexity of Texas’ DWI laws and Hays County’s notoriously backlogged court system and thousands of dollars in bail and lawyer fees. In order to disincentive individuals from committing DWIs in Hays County Texas, here’s an outline of the long and sobering criminal process that follows a typical first-time DWI in San Marcos.
Administrative License Revocation Hearing (ALR):
In Texas, if you’re charged with a DWI and blew above the legal limit into a breathalyzer or refused to take a chemical test before the prosecution even reviews the evidence you’re likely to be in civil court dealing with an ALR hearing. Upon being arrested for a DWI in Hays County Texas, you will be issued a notice of suspension stating that your driver’s license will be automatically suspended in 15 days unless an ALR hearing is scheduled. Unless evidence of law enforcement malpractice (such as a lack of probable cause or a failure to read statutory warnings when requesting a chemical test) is presented during the hearing you are likely to lose, resulting in a 90-day suspension (for first offenses) on top of any penalties enforced through criminal proceedings.
Initial Arrest, Charges, and Bail:
The criminal process for a DWI in Hays County Texas begins with being arrested and sent to jail. While being held in jail you will attend your initial arraignment hearing, which happens within 48 hours of arrest. At this hearing, a magistrate will explain your rights and the probable cause for your arrest before reading out your formal charges and setting your bail. A first-time DWI usually results in a Class B misdemeanor with a maximum 180-day jail sentence. You will be given the option to plead guilty or not guilty at an arraignment hearing, with those pleading guilty often being sentenced on the spot. If pleading not guilty, a trial will be scheduled. An individual can avoid remaining in prison while awaiting trial by posting a bail bond. The cost of a bail bond is up to a judge’s complete discretion but will rarely exceed $5,000 for a Texas DWI.
Prior to a DWI trial, there will be several meetings in front of the court to ensure that a case is making progress for trial. During these meetings, attorneys have time to obtain discovery material such as police reports and witness statements. These meetings also provide attorneys with time to review all court documents for any errors that could warrant a dismissal, such as law enforcement misconduct or flaws in the evidence.
Trial and/or Sentencing:
Once a trial has begun (usually four months to a year after the initial arrest), your fate rests completely in your attorney and the jury. Given the severity of Texas’ DWI penalties, it is recommended that you go to trial only if you have rock solid evidence and an expert DWI attorney. While there are many legitimate arguments that can grant a not guilty verdict for a DWI, those frivolously pleading not guilty are unlikely to fare well in front of a judge and jury, and will likely be handed down a maximum sentence.
If found guilty, a judge will decide your sentence unless you ask the jury to do so. This sentence (for a first-time offender) will include a minimum of three days in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and potential penalties such as a mandatory DWI education or treatment program, community service, and the installation of an ignition interlock device in all personally operated vehicles.
If found not guilty, you avoid the criminal penalties associated with a DWI in Hays County Texas but are still faced with a criminal record. To avoid the stigma of a criminal record many opt to expunge their not guilty DWI charges which can cause hundreds of additional dollars. With even those found not guilty facing the harsh consequences of a DWI, it is more than clear that driving while intoxicated is just not worth it.