DWI Basics

The Basics of Driving While Intoxicated

DWI Attorney Austin

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A glass of white wine aside a set of car keys.What Happens After a DWI Arrest?

Each county in Texas has a different way of running their criminal docket.  Typically, your case is set for arraignment, which generally can be waived, then set for pre-trial, with or without motions.  At the pre-trial, your attorney will negotiate with the state and  get an offer from the prosecution to settle the case.  If a resolution can be reached at pre-trial, the case will then be moved to a plea docket or a change of plea will be entered on the same day of the pre-trial.  If an agreement cannot be reached, then the case will be set for trial. 

DWI Attorney Jason Trumpler has helped many Austin and greater Texas residents defend their rights following drunk driving charges. There are a large number of variations with respect to how each county handles their specific criminal docket, and we know how to handle each of these dockets in the courts that we appear in routinely throughout Central Texas.  

It is important to note, however, that when you are charged with a DWI in Texas, you are facing two separate and distinct cases. One is criminal. The second case is civil and administrative in nature and involves your driver's license. It is called an Administrative License Review Hearing (ALR).  Contact the Law Offices of Jason Trumpler to learn more about your case today.

What is an Administrative License Review (ALR) Hearing?

You must request an ALR Hearing within 15 days of when you were served with a Notice of Suspension (usually the date of arrest). A failure to schedule your hearing in a timely manner can lead to an automatic suspension of your license. If you hire a Texas DWI Attorney during this 15 day period, he or she will usually request the hearing for you. If you, or your attorney, requested an ALR Hearing in a timely manner, you will be able to continue driving until the hearing. If you lose at the hearing, you can not drive after the hearing. If your license is suspended at the hearing or because you failed to request an ALR Hearing, you may be able to request and secure an occupational license.

A DWI sign including the State of Texas and a warning, "You Can't Afford It."

If a plea bargain is reached that does not result in a dismissal or you are found guilty of DWI at trial, you will face the following potential sentences:

What is the Sentencing Process?

The Court imposes a sentence after a conviction at trial or after a plea bargain is accepted and a plea entered. Sentences may include jail time, numerous fees, fines, community service, alcohol classes and 

fines.

Driving While Intoxicated: First Offense: (Class B Misdemeanor)

• up to a $2,000 fine
• 72 hours to 180 days in jail
• driver's license suspension: 90 days to 1 year
• 1,000 annual DPS surcharge for three years.

Driving While Intoxicated with a Blood Alcohol Concentration Greater than a 0.15%.

A First Offense DWI in Texas, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of a 0.15% or greater is a Class A Misdemeanor. The terms and conditions of probation, other than the requirement of the installation of an ignition interlock device, will probably remain the same as they are with a standard First First Offense DWI, but your overall exposure is now 1 year in the county jail rather than 180 days in county jail and a $4,000 fine rather a $2,000 fine. There is a collateral consequence  a $2,000 surcharge rather than the $1,000 surcharge for folks with blood alcohol concentrations less than 0.15%.

Probation/Community Supervision

Most people convicted of a first offense DWI do not serve any jail time. They are technically sentenced to jail, but the jail sentence is suspended and they are put on probation (community supervision.) The community supervision is generally for a term of one to two years. While on community supervision you must do what the judge orders you to do. These orders are called conditions of community supervision. The probation department and the judge can order any condition of community supervision they deem reasonable. If you do not do what the judge and/or probation has ordered you to do (the conditions) then the judge has the option of revoking your community supervision and putting you in jail (imposing sentence) for any number of days up to the original jail sentence you received that was suspended. Remember, if you plead guilty to any type of DWI, you are not eligible for deferred adjudication community supervision.

Again, the judge can order any reasonable condition of community supervision. The typical conditions of community supervision are as follows:

• Do not violate the law.
• Report to your probation officer. (This is usually once a month.)
• Pay your fine, court costs and monthly probation fees.
• Do your community service. For a first offense DWI you must do between 24 and 80 hours community service. The type of community service varies.
• You can not drink alcohol.
• You must attend DWI Education classes.
• You must attend what is called a Victim Impact Panel. This is presented by M.A.D.D. It is designed to educate on the dangers of DWI.
• Get a drug and alcohol evaluation. (If the evaluation reveals you have a problem with drugs or alcohol then more intensive treatment of the problem will be ordered.)
• Maintain a job.

If you are placed on community supervision and your BAC is over a 0.15%, you will be required to have a deep lung air device (called an Ignition Interlock Device or IID for short) on your vehicle. This is a breath test hooked up to your cars ignition. If alcohol is on your breath, your car will not start. Moreover, any alcohol on your breath, will be reported to your probation officer as a violation of your community supervision and can cause your community supervision to be revoked

{These are the most common conditions that are imposed on a person placed on community supervision for a DWI first offense}

In some counties, you can do a county work program in lieu of community supervision or actual jail. Be sure to ask your Texas DWI Attorney if this option exists in your county, as it ensures that you do not violate community supervision and get a more significant sentence than you may have in the first place.

Second Offense: (A Class A Misdemeanor)

• Up to a $4,000 fine
• 30 days to 1 year in jail
• Driver's license suspension: 180 days to 2 years
• Second or subsequent Conviction - $1,500 annual DPS surcharge for three years

Community Supervision

If you are convicted of a second DWI, you are eligible for community supervision. Community supervision is not granted as often for a second DWI as it is for a first, but it is not uncommon. If you are given community supervision on a second DWI the requirements will generally be much more demanding than a first offense. Likewise, the length of community supervision will generally be for a full two years. The additional requirements that are typically required on a second offense are as follows:

• You must serve jail time as a condition of your community supervision. (The maximum is 30 days, this is day for day jail time.)
• The community service must be from 80 to 200 hours.
• You will be required to have a deep lung air device (called an Ignition Interlock Device or IID for short) on your vehicle. This is a breath test hooked up to your cars ignition. If alcohol is on your breath your car will not start. Moreover, any alcohol on your breath, will be automatically reported to your probation officer as a violation of your community supervision and can cause your probation to be revoked.

Third Offense or More (Generally, a Third Degree Felony):

• Up to a $10,000 fine
• 2 to 10 years in the state penitentiary
• Driver's license suspension: 180 days to 2 years

Community Supervision

If you are convicted of a third DWI, there are situations where you are eligible for community supervision and some where you are not. If you are eligible for community supervision, the term must be from 2 to 10 years. The courts will look at many factors in determining if you get community supervision. Some of these factors are: How long has it been since your last DWI? If you previously had a community supervision how did you do while on community supervision? (Did you ever violate a condition of the community supervision?) How severe are the facts of the new case? Was there an accident? If you took a breath or blood test, how high was your breath/blood alcohol concentration? Are there any other aggravating factors?

A third offense DWI can also be reduced to a misdemeanor, with conditions similar to those of a second DWI. For the most part, however, they are handled as third degree felonies, which carry a sentencing range of 2 to 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. 

There is also "Shock Probation." Shock Probation is where you are actually sentenced and go to the penitentiary. At any time prior to 180 days from the date of being sentenced to prison, the court can Shock you out of prison and put you on community supervision. To qualify for Shock Probation you must be eligible for community supervision and never have been sentenced to prison before. Then it is the decision of the court that sent you to prison. (A jury can also sentence you to Shock Probation after a jury trial.)

Shock Probation is discussed at length in the "Texas Code of Criminal Procedure in Article 42.12 COMMUNITY SUPERVISION" in the section 6 titled "Continuing Court Jurisdiction in Felony Cases. "

The following conditions of probation will likely be required if a person is granted probation for a felony DWI. (In addition to the ones required for a class A misdemeanor.)

• There must be from 160 to 600 hours of community service.
• You must serve jail time as a condition of probation. (The minimum time is ten days and the maximum is 180 days.)
• There are various types of alcohol treatment programs that a judge can require. These range from outpatient treatment to intensive inpatient treatment. The most intensive of these inpatient programs authorized by statute is the Substance Abuse Felony Program (SAFP).  SAFP is a treatment program set in a penal setting that is run by the Texas Department of Corrections. You are sentenced to the program for a minimum of 90 days and up to 1 year. After completion of SAFP, there is generally 90 days of transitional treatment and then a period of aftercare.

Many counties like Caldwell County, Comal County, and Williamson County regularly recommend SAFP if they grant community supervision on a felony DWI.

It is important to note that the use of a vehicle in the commission any felony can constitute a deadly weapon enhancement. A deadly weapon enhancement automatically makes the crime a 3g offense. 3g offenses are aggravated offenses and carry more severe penalties and more limitations on mitigation of punishment. For instance, a person must serve at least half of the period of their sentence in the Texas Department of Corrections if there is an affirmative finding that a deadly weapon was used in the crime. Moreover, a judge cannot order community supervision.

See "Art. 42.12. COMMUNITY SUPERVISION of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Limitation on Judge Ordered Community Supervision Section 3g."

Intoxicated Assault: Third Degree Felony

An intoxicated assault is when a person is guilty of DWI and also CAUSES serious bodily injury to another person. (Serious Bodily Injury: is defined as an injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.)

• up to $10,000 fine
• 2 to 10 years in the state penitentiary
• drivers license suspension: 180 days to one year

Community Supervision

Community supervision is legally available for some intoxicated assault cases. The severity of the injuries as well as prior record of the accused will be important factors on whether or not a person gets probation.

The following conditions will likely be required if a person is granted probation for an intoxicated assault. (In addition to those for a DWI):

• You must serve jail time as a condition of probation.( A minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 180 days.)
• There must be from 160 to 600 hours of community service.
• There are various types of alcohol treatment programs that a judge can required. These range from inpatient treatment to outpatient treatment.

Intoxicated Manslaughter: Second Degree Felony

A person is guilty of intoxicated manslaughter if he/she is guilty of DWI and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.

• up to $10,000 fine
• 2 to 20 years in the state penitentiary
• drivers license suspension: 180 days to 2 years

Community Supervision

Community supervision is a legal possibility in some intoxicated manslaughter cases, but is very difficult to get. If it is the result of a plea bargain, the family of the victim usually would have to agree to the deal. These are always very sensitive cases and must be dealt with accordingly.

If a person receives probation the following conditions apply. (In addition to the conditions of a felony DWI.)

• You must serve jail time as a condition of probation.(A minimum of 120 days and a maximum of 180 days.)
• There must be 240 to 800 hours community service.

Options:

It is important to hire a competent DWI Defense Attorney who will ensure you get the best deal possible. Many of the above terms are negotiable. Many terms are mandatory. Ultimately, if you did not give a chemical test, the patrol car video is going to be the chief tool an attorney uses to negotiate your case. If you look good on the video, it is possible to negotiate a reduction to a non-alcohol related charge or a dismissal. If you gave a chemical test, your chemical test results will rule the majority of the negotiation. Ultimately, all cases can be taken to trial and won. This being said, a competent attorney will give you a realistic assessment of you chances of victory.

Typical Reductions of DWI Cases

The most common reduction of a DWI case is a reduction to an Obstruction of Highway Passageway. While Obstruction is still a Class B misdemeanor, it does not carry all of the collateral consequences of a DWI conviction. There are no points or surcharges attached, it cannot be used as a prior, and unlike a DWI offense, you are eligible for an early termination community supervision. Moreover, unlike a DWI offense, you are eligible for a deferred adjudication community supervision. If you successfully complete a deferred adjudication community supervision, you can get an Order of Non-Disclosure two years after you discharged.

There are a large variety of traffic violations and other Class C misdemeanors that a DWI can be reduced to short of dismissal. In addition, some jurisdictions use Deadly Conduct as a so called reduction of a DWI offense.  Similar to an Obstruction, there are no points and/or surcharges attached to a plea to a Deadly Conduct.  In addition, a plea to a Deadly Conduct cannot be used as a prior, and you are eligible for a deferred adjudication community supervision. Again, like an Obstruction, there is a 2 year waiting period for an Order of Non-Disclosure after successful completion of the deferred adjudication community supervision on a Deadly Conduct charge.

Another less common reduction of a DWI offense is Reckless Driving, which is found in The Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.401. While Reckless Driving is still technically a Class B Misdemeanor, it has a fine that shall not exceed $200 and confinement in jail not to exceed 30 days. If a Reckless Driving is on the table and you have been charged with a DWI offense, it is an offer that is very difficult to pass up.

It should be noted that a DWI in Texas is only eligible for an expunction if your case is outright dismissed or you receive a not guilty verdict from a court or a jury. If the case is outright dismissed, you are only eligible for an expunction after the statute of limitations runs (2 years from the date of incident/arrest on a misdemeanor and 4 years on a felony). If you are found not guilty by a jury, you are immediately eligible for an expunction.

See "CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, TITLE 1. CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, CHAPTER 55. EXPUNCTION OF CRIMINAL RECORDS, (c)" A court may not order the expunction of records and files relating to an arrest for an offense for which a person is subsequently acquitted, whether by the trial court or the court of criminal appeals, if the offense for which the person was acquitted arose out of a criminal episode, as defined by Section 3.01, Penal Code, and the person was convicted of or remains subject to prosecution for at least one other offense occurring during the criminal episode.

Why Choose Us?

In the last five years Mr. Trumpler has tried close to 100 DWI/ DUI cases in both Texas and California. You will be hard pressed to find anyone with this type of trial experience in DWI cases in such a short period of time. Mr. Trumpler is respected by prosecutors, the bench, and his peers for his trial skills and courtroom savvy. 

Brief Attorney Biography

Jason Trumpler graduated in December of 1999 from the University of Texas School of Law. After graduation, Mr. Trumpler worked for the Ventura County, California, District Attorney's Office as a Deputy District Attorney. During his tenure with the Ventura County District Attorney's Office Mr. Trumpler was known for creatively and successfully trying difficult DUI cases. Mr. Trumpler briefly entered the civil arena from 2001 until 2002 before returning to criminal law as a Deputy District Attorney in Orange County, California. During his career as a prosecutor in Orange County, Mr. Trumpler tried over 30 jury trials. Mr. Trumpler also trained law enforcement officers throughout Orange County in investigative techniques, DWI/DUI enforcement, and report writing. While with the Orange County District Attorney's Office, Mr. Trumpler tried a number of cases with renowned DUI Defense Attorney Myles L. Berman. Mr. Trumpler was recruited by Mr. Berman to run his Orange County Office, which Mr. Trumpler did for over two years. In 2006, Mr. Trumpler opened his own law office, which has an extensive DWI practice.

We have offices in Austin, Texas and Belton, Texas and we are available for consultation 24 hours a day at 866-722-8400. You can also contact Jason Trumpler and we will return your correspondence about your case today.

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