Over the 2017 Christmas/New Year’s holidays, in 7 days, Austin police brought in over 200 DWI arrests.
More than 20 of those had at least two prior convictions. Though no two arrests are the same, they all have something in common.
A DWI charge put their life in someone else’s hands. Family and friends who depend on them lose out on their choices, too.
Texas law will decide on jail time, license revocation, and fines. Though a DWI is a misdemeanor; prior charges will put it in felony category.
And, punishments are much more strict. If you are charged with a DUI in Austin, you’ll feel at the mercy of legal statutes few understand.
We’re here to help you navigate what happens next.
Here are the ten things you need to know if you are charged with a DWI in Austin.
The First Hearing
After booking, law enforcement will check your record. If there are prior DWI charges, the result changes the DWI to a felony.
If there are no priors, you may have the opportunity to bail out at around $500. You will get a date to return for trial or sentencing.
A felony charge results in longer jail time and a higher bail in most cases. An initial hearing must occur within 48 hours of the arrest.
Understanding the Charge
At the hearing, a judge will ask if you understand the charges against you. At its most basic, you are presumably guilty of operating a motor vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol level) of more than .08%.
For those under 21, any level of alcohol is illegal while driving. Breathalyzers or blood tests reveal the levels.
Refusing to do either does not drop charges or conviction. License revocation is immediate. You’ll have 15 days to request a hearing for reinstatement.
How to Plead
Your plea is necessary at the time of the charges. There is no reason to plead guilty unless an attorney representing you suggests it.
As with any legal process, the state will provide an attorney for you if you cannot afford one. The method may take place while you are in jail, or soon after your release.
If you get a release on bail before the arraignment, the court schedules a return date. This time will allow you and your attorney time to review the evidence against you.
How Bail is Set
A first time DWI charge can render a bail anywhere between $200 and $1,000. It is up to the judge’s discretion to determine the amount.
Here are a few of the considerations they take into account:
- Prior DWI Convictions
- Adhering to Mandatory Breathalyzer or Blood Testing
- Prior Convictions That May Cause the Defendant to Avoid Future Court Appearance
- Charges that Involve Violence or Manslaughter along with DWI
It’s worse for someone with charges of DWI possesses illicit drugs or stolen property. The bail amount increases by 200% of the schedule.
If the DWI is a first-time felony, an automatic $10,000 is the law.
Release from Jail
Allowing those charged with a DWI in Austin to leave serves two purposes. It saves the jurisdiction money on the cost to house defendants.
And, it will enable those charged to resume their life and ready for trial. For many, the bail amount is not affordable. A bail bondsman will post the entire bail amount for you with a 10% deposit.
They need some collateral, and many rely on family or friends to provide it. If you appear at every hearing, the court returns the full amount. A bail bondsman will keep the 10% deposit as their fee.
License Revocation Hearing
Once there is a charge of DWI, use of your license is in question. Though it is an administrative action, you must request a hearing to continue to drive.
Because it is not a hearing in a court of law, an attorney is not necessary according to Texas law. So, the court will not provide one for you.
For first time offenders, this is often a costly error of judgment. Many don’t understand what the hearing is for and attend without representation.
How to Request the Hearing
The ALR (Administration License Revocation) hearing request must occur within 15 days. If it’s not, your license will suspend in 45 days.
The application for a hearing is online, where you will answer fundamental questions. Your hearing date will be within 60 days, and it will be vital to have an attorney present.
For those who need to drive to work, losing a license can mean weeks of unemployment. The cost of hiring an attorney is much less than the loss of income.
Trial or Pleading to Lesser Charges
The decision to go to trial or pleading down takes careful consideration. The truth is, no professional can say for sure how a jury will decide.
In some cases, the evidence from a DWI charge is questionable. For some, a lesser charge has an outcome surer than how twelve people will interpret the evidence.
An attorney with experience and knowledge of prosecutors and judges can tell best. If there’s a conviction, an attorney can argue for the reduction of jail time and fines.
The Basic Requirements of Your Sentence
Sentences for DWI conviction vary. Your BAC level and prior convictions are the guiding factors for judges.
For example, if your BAC is over .15, the fine increases from $2,000 to $4,000. And, jail time from 3 months to one year.
The judge may also order an ignition device you must use to enable your car to start. If you have prior convictions, you may lose your license for up to two years.
It’s important to note requirements contain flexible wording. This enables attorneys to argue for less than the maximums.
Being Charged With a DWI in Austin Doesn’t Mean a Life Sentence
Unless your charges include egregious fatalities, paying for your mistake isn’t forever. Recovery professionals can help re-engineer your life on the right track.
And, we can stand up for your rights to ensure a fair outcome. Your consultation after being charged with a DWI in Austin is free. Contact us here.