The preferred strategy when you have been charged with driving while intoxicated is to try to receive a “not guilty” verdict or to get the charge dismissed. In some cases, your best strategy is to minimize the penalties you receive. When a conviction seems unavoidable, your DWI defense attorney can negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors, in which you agree to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or lesser penalty. Plea bargaining should be a last resort after evaluating your case and determining how you can contest the charge. A plea bargain can still result in severe consequences.
The Reality of Plea Bargains
Your best-case scenario in plea bargaining with prosecutors would be to get your DWI charge reduced to reckless driving, obstruction of a highway or public intoxication. These charges could allow you to avoid jail time and a driver’s license suspension. However, prosecutors are more likely to offer lesser penalties in exchange for pleading guilty to DWI. When deciding whether to offer a plea bargain, prosecutors will consider:
Your previous criminal record, or lack thereof;
How much greater they claim your blood alcohol concentration was than the 0.08 legal limit;
Whether there was a crash or injuries involved in the incident; and
The conduct of yourself and the police officer during your arrest.
A first-time DWI conviction in Texas is a class B misdemeanor, with a minimum of 72 hours in jail and a driver’s license suspension of at least 90 days.
A first-time conviction for driving while intoxicated often does not include any jail time for the offender. Texas law does not require jail for a first-time offense, and courts prefer to give probation. However, some people choose to serve jail time instead of accepting the conditions of probation. Why would a defendant reject the chance to avoid jail time? For some, it is a matter of cost, hassle, and the duration of probation.
There are several conditions to being on probation, and violating them may result in you going to jail. People on probation for a DWI conviction often must:
Regularly report to a probation officer;
Abstain from drinking alcohol;
Submit to random alcohol breath tests;
Install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles;
Attend counseling or classes;
Perform community service; and
Remain in their county of residence, unless they receive court permission.
Some people find these conditions too prohibitive or fear that they will not be able to comply. They would rather serve time in jail and be free of these conditions once they are released.
When facing a charge of driving while intoxicated in Texas, it can sometimes feel like your case is hopeless. Prosecutors may present convincing evidence, such as chemical tests and testimony from the arresting officer and other witnesses. You may be tempted to plead guilty to the charge in order to expedite the process and possibly receive a lighter sentence. However, it is worth your effort to contest your DWI charge instead of resigning yourself to being convicted. There are several consequences to a DWI conviction that you want to avoid if possible:
Sentencing: A first-time DWI offense, which is the most basic offense, can result in as long as 180 days in jail, a fine of as much as $2,000, and a driver’s license suspension for as long as a year. The penalties increase if you have any aggravating factors, such as a DWI charge with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or greater or if someone was injured during the incident. Previous DWI convictions on your record will also raise the level of the charge.
Criminal Record: You can never expunge a DWI conviction from your criminal record. The best you can do is seal your record from the public if you were convicted for a first-time offense with no aggravating factors and you completed your probation. Without sealing your record, your DWI conviction will appear in a background check when you apply for a job or loan. Even if your record is sealed, law enforcement and employers in sensitive industries can still see the conviction.
Driving Privileges: You can continue to drive after a DWI conviction if you receive probation. However, you will likely be required to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle you drive. You may lose your job if you drive a commercial vehicle. A DWI conviction also suspends a commercial driver’s license, and most employers will not allow you to use an ignition interlock device on their vehicles.
Travel Privileges: Probation often comes with a travel restriction. Texas may require you to receive permission before you leave the state. Some countries may bar you from entry if you have a DWI conviction unless you apply for a special permit.
Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Lawyer
Before you assume that your case will end in a conviction, you should consult with a San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock. There may be details in your case that cast doubt on the prosecution’s evidence or make that evidence inadmissible in court. To schedule a free consultation, call 888-726-5625.
Texas has strict requirements for permitting residents to have a license to possess a firearm. Though the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to possess firearms, lawmakers believe it is a danger to public safety to allow people convicted of serious crimes to own firearms. Being convicted of a felony or class A or B misdemeanor disqualifies you from having a Texas firearms license for several years. Thus, a conviction for driving while intoxicated will result in your firearms license being revoked.
A first-time DWI offense without any aggravating factors is a class B misdemeanor. Merely being charged with DWI causes an automatic suspension of your firearms license while your case is ongoing. If you are convicted, your license will be revoked, and you must wait five years to reapply for the license.
A second DWI offense is a class A misdemeanor but could disqualify you from having a firearms license. Texas law states that a person who is twice convicted of a drug or alcohol-related offense within 10 years is considered chemically dependent and ineligible to receive a firearms license.
This is the second in a two-part series about the ways that a driving while intoxicated conviction can harm you beyond legal penalties, such as prison time. The last post focused on how a DWI on your criminal record can affect your ability to obtain or retain employment. There are other ways that a DWI conviction can take money out of your wallet, both directly and indirectly.
It should come as no surprise that your auto insurance expenses will increase after a DWI conviction. Drivers with a DWI conviction can have difficulty finding:
The Law Offices of Sam H. Lock, with offices in San Antonio and Seguin, Texas, provides criminal defense representation for people charged with state and federal crimes throughout Texas and the United States, including San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, Waco, Hondo, New Braunfels, Laredo, Kerrville, San Marcos, Boerne, and Del Rio, Bexar County, Guadalupe County, Comal County, Wilson County, Gonzales County, Kendall County, Bandera County, Caldwell County, Hays County, Travis County, Medina County, Blanco County, Burnet County, Atascosa County, Live Oak County, Nueces County, Uvalde County.