Thinking about hiring a lawyer for your DWI case? You’re not alone. Believe it or not, US law enforcement officers make around 1 million arrests each year for driving under the influence. Fortunately, that means there are time-tested methods to help you get the best outcome in court. Let’s talk about some key signs that it’s time to hire a DWI attorney for your case in Texas!
What Is a DWI Attorney?
DWI attorneys specialize in criminal defense for charges related to driving under the influence. Essentially, they are specialized criminal defense lawyers.
Most of them have worked on dozens or even hundreds of DWI cases in their careers, giving them expert knowledge of the laws regarding DWIs, their penalties, and their defenses. Therefore, having an experienced DWI attorney puts you in the best position for a favorable outcome in your case.
Texas DWI Penalties
First, let’s understand what qualifies as a DWI before discussing the penalties.
In Texas, blood-alcohol levels cannot exceed 0.08% for those allowed to drink. If you are under 21, then any detectable level of alcohol in your system makes it illegal for you to drive. This exclusion includes driving cars, boats, or flying any aviation vehicles.
However, there are plenty of other charges that may come with a DWI, including:
- Child endangerment (if a minor is present in the vehicle)
- Open container violations (if an open container is present in the vehicle)
- Damage to property (if a DWI results in an accident)
- Vehicular homicide (if an accident results in death)
The list goes on. If you face any of these charges as well, then you will need to discuss possible penalties with your attorney. For the DWI charge itself, here are the penalties you may face.
Your first offense may result in fines of up to $2,000, 180 days in jail, and a loss of your driver’s license for up to one year. The minimum jail sentence is three days, including time spent awaiting your arraignment. However, this is mandatory upon conviction.
A second conviction of a DWI can result in up to $4,000 in fines, one year in jail, and a loss of your driver’s license for up to two years. The mandatory minimum for a second DWI conviction is one month, and you should expect to lose your license for at least one year upon conviction.
Keep in mind, sentencing for a second offense tends to be harsher. If you already have a conviction on your record, don’t expect minimum sentencing.
A third DWI offense is considered a felony, which can result in two to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and a loss of your driver’s license for up to two years.
Also, keep in mind that there may be state fines, fees, or additional penalties not mentioned above. Whether it’s a first offense or a third, expect to cover legal fees and an additional $3,000 to $6,000 state fine assessed upon conviction.
How Long Will Violations Last?
Keep in mind that it isn’t just the penalties that can affect you. A conviction through trial or guilty plea will have many other consequences, many of which could be lifelong.
DWI violations can stay on your criminal record for life. Also, if you spend time in jail for your DWI, there’s no law requiring your employer to hold your job for you.
From there, future employers that conduct a background check will find a DWI on your record. If your career requires a valid driver’s license or clean record, then a conviction could force you into a career change.
Also, if your job requires a driver’s license, then a conviction will mean that you lose your job. Even if you have reliable alternate transportation to and from work, some jobs will require a valid license. The BLS estimates that 30% of all civilian jobs in the US require a valid license.
On top of that, any future criminal charges can become more severe as a result of a conviction. Of course, you aren’t planning on committing future violations, but this is something to keep in mind. Judges, juries, and prosecutors may judge everything from future speeding tickets to felonies more harshly upon conviction.
5 Signs You Need a DWI Attorney
Clearly, DWI convictions are no joke. If you’re facing DWI charges, then here are some signs that you need a DWI attorney right away.
1. You’ve Failed a Sobriety Test
If you were stopped by a police officer and failed a sobriety test (of any kind), then you need a criminal defense lawyer right away. You will be arrested on the scene and either brought to a police station holding cell or a nearby “drunk tank” in a local hospital.
You should receive an arraignment within 24 hours, which will set your bail. Once this is paid, you are free to go until the date set by the court for your first hearing. During this period, it’s essential that you contact a DWI attorney, especially before entering a plea.
Keep in mind that field sobriety tests are easy to fail. If that is the only evidence a prosecutor has against you, then entering a guilty plea is a mistake.
However, chemical tests (breathalyzers) are harder to refute in court. Again, all the more reason to have an experienced attorney acting on your behalf. You’ll need this to prevent the worst-case scenario for your offense.
2. You’re Unsure How to Plea
This is a tell-tale sign that you need an attorney. You may have a public defender or prosecutor pressuring you to plead guilty, which is an all-too-common practice. They may offer a reduced sentence, which can be tempting.
However, this will still leave you with a criminal record, so this isn’t a decision to take lightly. Instead, you’ll need the help of an experienced DWI attorney to get you the best deal possible.
3. Your Public Attorney Is Swamped
We desperately need more public attorneys in the US, as the system is overwhelmed with cases. Believe it or not, public defenders handle around 81% of cases in Texas, and there aren’t enough to go around.
Unfortunately, a byproduct of this is overworked public defenders with little to no time to work on specific cases. As a result, many of them argue for plea deals right away.
If your attorney is hard to reach or unable to offer you the services you need, then it’s time to find a specialized attorney who can help you with your case.
4. Your Livelihood Depends on Winning
Again, DWI penalties are not always the worst consequences of a conviction. Three days in jail isn’t the end of the world, but losing your job or ability to meet your personal obligations can pose a serious threat.
Losing your license or having a criminal record can uproot your life. You can lose your job, transportation, ability to care for your family, and so much more. In this case, preventing a conviction at all costs should be your top priority.
5. You Have an Existing Criminal Record
If you have an existing criminal record, penalties are likely to be more severe. Also, if you are on probation or parole for other offenses, a DWI conviction is a ticket to prison.
Even without parole or probation, penalties for someone with an existing record will likely be harsher. Again, even your first DWI can result in 180 days in jail.
Therefore, if you have any misdemeanors or felonies, especially related to your current charges, it’s essential to have expert help on your side.
How to Choose the Right DWI Attorney
Okay, so you know when it’s time. Well, if you’re facing criminal DWI charges, regardless of the offense, here’s how to find the right representation for your needs.
Review Their Services Offered
First, you want to ensure that any lawyer you contact offers the services you need. Of course, they’ll tell you they do, but you should still verify it before reaching out. If you don’t see “DWI” mentioned on their website, then it’s likely that it isn’t a specialized practice area for them.
That’s perfectly fine. Many lawyers practice in different fields. However, for your criminal defense, you’ll need a criminal defense lawyer, preferably with experience in DWI cases.
Also, if you have specific needs for other charges related to your DWI (child endangerment, etc.), then make sure the defense attorney practices in these areas as well.
Learn From Previous Clients
Once you’ve verified their experience with DWI cases, see what previous clients have to say! We’re fortunate enough to live in a world with access to online reviews.
Check on their website, but feel free to check on other sites as well. Remember, they control what goes on the website!
Also, don’t simply go off of the “star” count. Reading reviews is essential, as both one-star and five-star ratings are meaningless without context. See what clients specifically liked or disliked about their services.
If you don’t find enough information, or if you want to ask specific questions, reach out and ask for references. Again, you only get one shot at this. Make sure you find the right help at all costs.
Once you’ve found an attorney with the experience and client satisfaction you need, reach out to them. Ask them as many questions as you’d like about their experience and services, including:
- How long have you worked on similar cases?
- What is your success rate?
- What is your pricing structure?
- How long will this case last?
- Can you offer services for my related charges?
- How would you handle my specific case?
This way, you can judge if an attorney is offering you the help that you need and make an informed decision based on their response. You can always reach out to more than one and compare if it helps!
Ask About Pricing
You need to make sure that the services fit your budget. Legal assistance can be quite expensive, so make sure you find services that will only charge you if you can avoid a conviction.
Of course, the alternative is fines, missed work, and difficulty finding new work in the future. Still, you want to make sure that the costs outweigh the risks.
Talk About Strategy
Finally, you’ll need a winning strategy to help avoid conviction. Remember that public attorneys, while they provide important services to their community, are typically swamped with cases. Less than 10,000 public defenders in Texas manage about 6.9 million criminal cases each year.
That’s why it’s essential to hire an experienced DWI attorney who is willing and able to work on your behalf to find the best deal.
In some cases, the right DWI lawyer can help get your record expunged or avoid criminal charges altogether. This is the best-case scenario, and it’s worth pursuing if you’re facing DWI charges.
Remember, it isn’t only the penalties themselves that can cause harm. Having a criminal record can cause serious and irreversible damage to your life. Try to prevent a conviction at all costs!
Call a DWI Attorney Today
Now that you know when it’s time to contact a DWI attorney, don’t put this off any longer. If you face DWI charges, a conviction can cause serious problems in your life, especially if convictions add up. Save your job, your money, and your freedom by finding the right legal representation today.
Stay up to date with our latest legal news, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or for help with your case!