Frequently Asked Questions for Austin Attorneys
Texas is a difficult state to be facing a criminal allegation in. The legislature in Austin has created laws that make the punishments for even misdemeanor offenses very serious, including jail time for up to 6 months for even minor accusations. Nobody ever wants to find themselves on the wrong side of the law, but there are ways to fight charges in Texas. The 6th amendment to the United States Constitution ensures that everyone accused of a crime has a right to an attorney to assist and advise them. This, among numerous others, is what makes America different from many other countries around the world. In addition, ever person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent. The burden rests solely on the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of every offense to overcome this presumption of innocence.
A criminal case usually (but not always) starts with a person being arrested by the police. Following arrest, a person is entitled to a hearing to determine the amount of bond that person will be required to put forth in order to secure court appearances. Bond is basically an amount of money held in escrow while a criminal case is pending to make sure that the person accused of the crime appears in court. Once bond is posted the person accused of a crime is released from jail. Conditions of bail are commonly attached, such as requiring an ignition interlock device on a vehicle driven by a person accused of DWI. Out of county travel restrictions are also commonly applied to citizens accused of crimes.
In State court, a criminal charge is either a misdemeanor or a felony. The difference between the two levels of charges is that a conviction for a misdemeanor could result in jail time, while a conviction for a felony could result in a prison sentence. Any criminal charge is a serious affair, and requires a serious attorney who can defend a citizen against the power of the government who will do everything within its power to secure a conviction.
No one ever wants to be on the wrong side of the law. But with the right attorney on your side, a criminal case can and should be fought from the beginning until the end.
If you have been arrested for suspicion of DWI you must act quickly. Contact an experienced attorney who specializes in DWI defense as soon as possible. James Fletcher will meet with you at your convenience, including nights and weekends, to discuss your case free of charge. A proper DWI investigation involves many time sensitive factors, such as scene investigations, witness interviews, and issuing subpoenas.
Not necessarily, but again you must act quickly to fight a license suspension. The law states that a person who is arrested on suspicion of DWI has 15 days from the day of arrest to request a hearing on the suspension of their driver’s license. Your license is NOT automatically suspended if you are arrested for DWI. James has handled hundreds of these special hearings, and as such can help with this process. However, if you miss the 15 day deadline the Department of Public Safety will be allowed to suspend your license.
The balancing tests the police use are difficult, abnormal, and done under extremely stressful conditions. This is not fair, but they do it anyway. And you only have to do two things wrong for the police to think you are intoxicated! James has gone through special training through the International Organization of the Chiefs of Police on how to administer and attack the field balancing tests. He can use this in your favor to point out the problems with these “tests”.
The machine used to test someone’s breath is not as accurate as the police and prosecutors want us to believe. Just because you gave a breath specimen that may have been above the legal limit does not mean you cannot fight your case.
If someone is arrested for DWI and refuses to give a breath or blood sample, the police can and will obtain a warrant to draw that person’s blood by force and against their will. However, there are many legal hurdles that the State has to get past in order for that blood to be used as evidence against you. James knows everything there is to know about the science behind blood alcohol analysis, the machine used to analyze blood samples, and especially how to attack a blood draw. Just because the police got a blood sample from you does not mean you cannot fight your case.
The police are allowed to stop and detain a driver for any number of traffic offenses. The more common reasons someone is stopped involve speeding, not signaling a lane change, rolling through stop signs, weaving across lane boundaries, and making a wide turn. In fact, the police can stop someone for something that is not even a traffic violation, so long as they reasonably thought it was a traffic violation. This is the start of the DWI investigation, and is the start of the fight to keep your record clean.
No one should be punished for being honest with the police. Just because you told the police you had been drinking does not mean you cannot fight your case. In fact, it is not illegal to drink and drive in Texas, so long as you are not intoxicated. There is nothing illegal about telling an officer that you had drank some alcohol, then drove.
Accidents happen. In fact, they are a normal occurrence on a daily basis all over the world. Just because there was an accident does not mean the State can prove what they are alleging.
It is extremely common for someone to have never gotten so much as a speeding ticket to be suddenly and unexpectedly facing a DWI charge. The State is going to attempt to label you a criminal for the rest of your life. If you are convicted of DWI, the charge is permanently on your record, even if you get probation. This is why it is so important to hire a lawyer that specializes in DWI defense and knows how to fight the case.
The Harris County Criminal Justice Center is located downtown at 1201 Franklin, Houston, Texas 77002. There are 16 misdemeanor court and 22 felony courts. If you do not know which specific court you are in James can look up your case and tell you. James knows every misdemeanor judge and all the court staff, as well as the prosecuting attorneys. He has worked very hard for a long time to develop these relationships.
Since your license is NOT suspended automatically just because you were arrested, you can go to any Department of Public Safety office and ask for a replacement license. They will mail one to you, usually within two weeks. Until then you will be provided a paper license. If you do not have any pre-existing suspensions or surcharges the process will be smooth. If you do have pre-existing suspensions or surcharges, contact James and he can help clear your license.
1st offense: Up to six months in Harris County jail and/or a fine of $2,000.00, or both, and a license suspension from 90 days to one year.
2nd offense: Up to one year in Harris County jail and/or a fine of $4,000.00, or both, minimum of 3 days in Harris County jail, and up to two year driver license suspension.
3rd or more: 2 to 10 years in Texas Department of Corrections (prison) and/or a fine of up to $10,000.00, or both, and a license suspension for up to two years.
Intoxication Assault (if there was an accident and someone was seriously injured): 2 to 10 years in Texas Department of Corrections (prison) and/or a fine of up to $10,000.00, or both, and a license suspension for up to two years.
Intoxication Manslaughter (if there was an accident and someone was killed): 2 to 20 years in Texas Department of Corrections (prison) and/or a fine of up to $10,000.00, or both, and a license suspension for up to two years. If more than one person was killed each count can count in addition to the others.
The DWI pretrial diversion program in Harris County is conducted on a case by case basis. In order to qualify, a person has to have no prior criminal history (except for Class C misdemeanors like speeding tickets), there cannot have been an accident involved, and the person’s breath or blood must be 0.15 or less. The program lasts one year. A person applying for pretrial diversion must take a written test to determine their dependence on drugs and alcohol. If a person is deemed “high risk” by this test then they will be required to have an ankle monitor for a minimum of 90 days and up to the entire one year period. Other counties in Texas have similar programs, but the rules and regulations for each program differ from county to county.
Consultations are completely confidential and 100% free. James will answer any and all questions that you may have. In-person consultations are available during office hours.