When you are released from jail after being arrested on DWI, you are “on bond”. Usually, this is a PR bond, and sometimes these bonds have conditions. When it comes to DWI, the most common conditions is an Ignition Interlock Device, or “IID”, drug or alcohol classes through Travis County Counseling and Education Services (CES), and a MADD Victim Impact Panel. Of course you must also attend court settings as outlined below.
In Travis County, your court dates will be at the Blackwell-Thurman Justice Center. Most courts open at 9:00AM. If you don’t have an attorney you will need to check in with the bailiff and given permission before you leave. One big advantage of hiring an attorney early in the process is that your advocate can handle your early court settings. In most Travis County courts, you will not need to attend your court date for the first 3-4 months if you have an attorney. During this time, your attorney will collect discovery (evidence) and begin discussions with the prosecutor.
An IID is a device that is installed in your vehicle where you must “blow clean” to drive (that is – have no alcohol on your breath). It’s not always required for first-time DWIs, but a judge may order an IID as a pretrial condition if the facts of your case are bad (high BAC, accident, etc.). A judge will always order an IID for a second DWI (when there has been a previous conviction).
You will have a certain number of days to install the IID (usually 21 days, but this can be changed by the judge), and you must set up an appointment with one of the local vendors that are certified to install the IID. Although the costs differ slightly between vendors, the IID will have an installation fee of around $100, along with a monthly fee of about $65. You are also required to “calibrate” your device once a month. Calibration means you take your vehicle to the vendor and they check for violations.
The device can occasionally cause problems once installed in your vehicle. It will sometimes drain your car battery. It can also give false positives if you have used mouthwash recently, or in some other circumstances. If you get a false positive, it is a good idea to try again in a few minutes. However, you will not be able to start your car before to blow “clean”.
IID alternatives – PAM and SCRAM
PAM (Portable Alcohol Monitoring Device)
A PAM is a small handheld device that you must blow clean at certain times of the day. This is usually only available if the defendant signs an affidavit promising not to drive any vehicle. For several reasons, I only recommend PAM when an IID is not an option. First, PAM is more expensive than an IID. Second, the IID is more forgiving because if you “slip up” and have alcohol, just don’t get behind the wheel and you’re ok. Third, it tends to lead to more violations due to simply forgetting to blow on-schedule. So for those reasons, I always recommend an IID. But sometimes, that option is not open, so PAM is necessary in some cases.
SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring)
In extreme cases, judges will sometimes order SCRAM. SCRAM is the most intrusive and expensive option, so it’s to be avoided if at all possible. A SCRAM device is an ankle bracelet that takes an alcohol reading from the evaporation on your skin. It costs approximately $360 per month. It can also cause skin irritation and can be unwieldy. It has to stay on at all times – when you go to work and to sleep and shower. Judges will usually only order SCRAM on felony DWIs, or after multiple violations on IID. If a SCRAM device is ordered, it can often be removed if you remain violation-free for 90 days or so.
Classes – CES and MADD VIP
Travis County Counseling and Education Services (CES)
Travis CES provides a variety of classes for those charged with a crime. For DWI’s, the typical classes are an 8-hour class for B misdemeanors or a 15-hour class for A misdemeanors. These are in person classes that you can schedule for yourself, usually in the evenings. Unfortunately, internet classes are not usually available. These classes are usually a part of any plea deal with the prosecutor, and if you do receive a conviction, it is necessary to get your license back. So in short, it’s tough to get around these classes if you’ve been arrested for DWI.
The MADD Victim Impact Panel
The Mothers Against Drunk Driving VIP is a forum where people who have been affected by a drunk driver share their stories. Previous clients have told me that it’s been worthwhile to hear these stories. Travis County puts on Victim Impact Panels twice a month at the courthouse. You can see the upcoming schedule and get information on when to arrive and how to pay the fee at the website above. Like the DWI classes, the MADD VIP is likely to be a part of any plea arrangement even if not required as a pretrial condition.