You may be wondering about the process which occurs after your arrest. I have created this page to help you understand the process.
As mentioned on several other pages of this site, there are actually two different processes working against you at the same time. The Criminal Case, and the ALR / License Suspension process. You can read about the ALR Process HERE. This page will focus on your DWI Case.
Arrest of the Citizen Accused
Your arrest was the first formal step in the criminal DWI process. Your arrest supposedly happened after the officer felt that he had enough probable cause to arrest you.
If you are reading this, you have probably already posted a bond (bail) to get out of jail. You may have either posted a Cash Bond (where you put up the entire amount), or a bail bond through a bondsman. In the case of a cash bond, at the disposition of your case, you are entitled to that money back (minus a small percentage to the court clerk). With a bail bond, any amount you paid to the bondsman will be retained by that bondsman. It is their "fee" for putting up the rest of the money for you.
If you bonded out of a city jail (i.e. Frisco, Plano, McKinney, Richardson, Denton), you will probably have to go to the County Jail to get processed in. You usually need to do this within 10 days of your release. If you were taken directly to the County Jail (McKinney for Collin County, Lew Sterrit for Dallas County, or Denton for Denton County), you would not need to go back to check yourself in.
Your bail bond is your promise to reappear for all court hearings. The point of the bond is to set a price that will ensure you show back up, and don't flee to Mexico. With most DWI cases, this is never a problem, and as long as you show up as scheduled, everything is fine.
The judge or magistrate may also require certain conditions of bond if they choose. One of the most common conditions is that you install an ignition interlock device on your car. This is actually a REQUIREMENT of your bond if you are charged with DWI 2nd.
Filing of the Criminal Case
Once the police believe that their investigation is complete, they will send their arrest report, and evidence in the case to the District Attorney of the county in which they made the arrest. This usually consists of their arrest report, video of the roadside and intoxilyzer room, and breath or blood test.
At this point, an attorney from the district attorney's office will review the report. In general, it is just a VERY cursory review of the report. Over 99% of the time, the DA will accept the case for prosecution. (This is the process for a misdemeanor. In a felony case, a grand jury must review the case before presenting an indictment.)
Announcements, Plea Settings, and Pre-Trial Dates
Depending on the court, there will be 3, 4, or more announcements, plea settings, or pre-trial dates. In general, these are all the same thing, despite the different names.
No matter what they are called, these announcements are simply court settings, where I will have the opportunity to visit with the prosecutor and learn more about your case. I will speak with the District Attorney handling your case, get a look at a police report. I will also be able to drop off a video to get a copy of the video of your arrest and/or breath test.
Almost always, it will be me handling these court settings. Occasionally, though, I will have a conflict where I cannot attend, I may have another attorney cover the setting. Depending on the county and and the judge, you may or may not have to attend these settings. In general, you do nothing at these hearings except to show up and prove you haven't fled the country.
Video Review Session
This is not an "official" part of the DWI court process, but an extremely important step nonetheless. With all of my DWI cases, I will hold a video review session. During your video review session, we will look at the police report from you case, and review any video evidence from your case. I will show you the good, the bad, and the ugly. After we go through the video step by step, I will give you my opinion on what I think your chances are if we were to go to trial. It will then be up to you to decide if you want to plea not guilty and have a trial, or to plea guilty and accept the state's plea bargain offer.
If we set your case for trial, we will usually have to attend a pre-trial hearing. This is a chance for me to file any pre-trial motions on your behalf, and help the judge to determine how long your trial is going to take. The judge holds these hearings to speed up the trials, and to determine the order and scheduling of the cases.
Just because your case is set for trial, does not guarantee that your trial will held on that day. Most judges set many cases for trial on the same day, expecting some of them to fall through. Different cases have different priorities of which cases go first. For example, if someone is in jail waiting for their trial, their trial has priority over someone who is not in jail. Additionally, Domestic Violence cases have priority over others. After that, older cases get to go before newer cases. But in the end, it is up to the judge in the court to decide which case goes first and on what day.
If you have decided to plea "not guilty," you will have a trial for the finder of fact to determine whether or not you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The finder of fact with either be a jury or a judge. In general, almost all of my trials are held before a jury.
The jury trial will start with vior dire. This is jury selection. It is the attorney's opportunity to talk with the potential juries about their thoughts and beliefs. In a misdemeanor DWI cases, the judge brings in about 25 people. From them, 6 jurors will be selected to sit on your case.
After opening statements, the state will put on their case. They may call as many witnesses as they wish, but in general will only have a few. Any officers on the scene, anyone working the breath test machine, any possible witnesses to your driving, and possibly the "Technical Supervisor" of the breath test machine.
After the state's case, we may or may not call any witnesses. You will have the opportunity to testify if you wish, but do not need to do so. If you do not testify, the jury will be instructed not to hold that fact against you in your case.
If you are found guilty by a judge or a jury, the case will proceed on to a punishment phase. During this phase, the state may bring up any prior bad acts or history. Before the trial begins, we must decide if it will be the judge or the jury to assess punishment. Each case is different, and this is something we will discuss before your trial begins. Most people have the judge assess punishment in their case, as they see many of these cases, and understand the severity (or non-severity) of the cases.
Expunction / Clearing Your Record
If you are found not guilty by a judge or a jury, the case will be over. However, there is still a record of your trial, arrest, and charge. You will eligible for an expunction of your record, however this does not happen automatically. If you are found not guilty, I will explain this process to you to keep your record clean!
How long does the DWI Criminal process take?
The answer to this question depends on many different factors. These factors include the nature of your case, what county you are in, how fast the police agency acted, and to what court you are assigned. If your case goes to trial, it can be over a year before your case is disposed. If you end up pleading guilty in your case, it can be over anywhere from 4-6 months.