The consequences for a first-time DWI can vary quite a bit based on lot of factors. However, there are enough commonalities to discuss them in general. This article is not discussing Class A DWIs (second DWIs, or a DWI where the BAC level is above .15). I will discuss those in a separate blog post.
With a standard class B DWI, I look at a number of factors before even getting to plea negotiations. Is the stop valid? Is there enough evidence to prove a DWI? Are there any mitigating factors that make my client sympathetic? The results of the analysis above will determine whether I am looking to get the case dismissed, move to plea negotiation stage, or set for trial.
Assuming the State has strong evidence (for example, a high breath or blood test, and a dashcam video that shows my client to be intoxicated), then I might be looking to plea the case.
At this stage I will typically advise my client that we can ask the prosecutor for a jail sentence, probation, or deferred adjudication. Sometimes, a short jail sentence (as little as one weekend in the right cases) will be preferred. Other times, jail is not an option, so my client will choose probation/deferred adjudication. One thing to consider is that by Texas statute, early termination is not an option for DWI probation. You will serve every month that you are sentenced.
Probation can include a number of terms that will be negotiated in each case. Community service hours, a fine, and an ignition interlock device (IID) for full or partial term are common conditions of probation, but they can all be negotiated with the prosecutor. An IID is not required by law for first-time DWIs the way it is for subsequent convictions.
In Travis County the prosecutors almost always require a 12-hour alcohol class (three in-person classes of four hours each), and a MADD victim impact panel where people who’s lives have been affected give testimonials. These are typically in-person classes that cannot be completed on-line. It is good to complete these ahead of time.
In addition to the penalties above, defendants can be on the hook for court costs (if not waived by the judge), and surcharges. Surcharges won’t hit you until you renew your license, but they can hit hard. For a first-time DWI, the surcharges are $1,000 for two years. Depending on your income level, you might be able to reduce or eliminate these charges, or put them on a payment plan.
Finally, if you do take a DWI conviction, your next one can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor. The potential jail time, fines, surcharges and other penalties all go up. Although a conviction can sometimes not be avoided, a good attorney will exhaust all alternatives first.
For all the reasons above, it is important to have an attorney who will look at all options in dealing with your DWI. If you take a plea deal where a dismissal was possible, you are causing yourself a lot of unneeded pain. If you have been charged with a DWI in Travis, Williamson, or surrounding counties and would like a free phone consultation, call Rob Chesnutt at 512-677-5003.