When you have been charged with driving while intoxicated in Texas, you may have many pressing questions, one of which is: If I am convicted, will I be sentenced to jail? Your aim is to avoid conviction, but what are your options if a conviction seems unavoidable? The good news is that many DWI convictions end in probation instead of jail time. Probation has its own limitations, such as travel restrictions and not being allowed to consume alcohol. However, many people prefer this to the alternative of spending months in jail. What is the likelihood that you would receive probation if you are convicted for your DWI charge? The answer depends on many factors:
Is This Your First DWI?: Though Texas law does allow a jail sentence for a first-time DWI, the judge is more likely to be lenient if this is your first offense with no aggravating factors. The hope is that this was a one-time lapse in judgment and that the terms of your probation would mitigate the risk of you repeating the offense. A second or third DWI conviction suggests a pattern of behavior, and the judge is more likely to require you to spend some time in jail or prison.
How Far Were You Over the Legal Limit?: A driver is considered legally intoxicated if their blood alcohol concentration exceeds 0.08 percent. However, being charged with DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or greater is a more serious offense, even if it is your first DWI. The maximum jail sentence increases from six months to one year, and the judge may view the higher level of intoxication as requiring stricter punishment.
Was Anyone Hurt or Killed?: A DWI accident that results in an injury or fatality will be upgraded to a more serious charge. An injury would be intoxication assault, a third-degree felony that could result in two to 10 years in prison. A fatality would be intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony that could result in two to 20 years in prison. Each charge could be upgraded further if the person injured or killed was an on-duty first responder.
Was a Child in Your Vehicle?: A DWI charge can also be upgraded if you had a passenger who was younger than 15. DWI with a child passenger is punishable by six months to two years in jail.
Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Lawyer
How you present your defense in your DWI case will determine whether you are convicted and how severe the penalties will be if you are convicted. A San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock will work to get you the best possible outcome in your case. To schedule a free consultation, call 888-726-5625.
A U.S. representative from central Texas recently claimed that half of the people arrested for driving while intoxicatedon Interstate 35 are illegal immigrants. At a forum on the Mexican border crisis, the congressman said that local law enforcement had told him this, as well as that most illegal immigrants had no identification but police officers had to let them go with just a ticket because the jails are full. Fact-checkers debunked this claim on multiple levels:
None of the law enforcement agencies they talked to had official statistics on the number of DWI arrests that involved illegal immigrants; and
Jails have contingency plans in the event that they have reached capacity.
What is true is that immigrants, here legally or otherwise, can face serious consequences if they are convicted of DWI.
Will I Be Deported?
If you are an immigrant to the U.S. who has been charged with DWI, your biggest fear may be whether a conviction would result in deportation. The answer depends on your legal status in the U.S.:
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.
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.