I got arrested for DWI … Now what?
Getting arrested for DWI in Texas may be one of the most stressful and traumatic events in your life. Although a first offense DWI is still a misdemeanor, it’s nothing like getting a traffic ticket and for people who have never been in trouble with the law, it’s their first experience with being treated like a criminal.
The entire experience impacts your life profoundly. DWI has a social stigma so those who are arrested worry about how their friends, family and, worse, employer, may react if they were to discover their arrest.
The complex legal process varies depending upon which local police agency makes your arrest. It can intimidate even the strongest individuals, but the lawyers at Trichter & Murphy hope to shed some light on what to expect when you are arrested for DWI:
STEP 1: The Arrest
Let’s start after you’ve been pulled over by the officer, been asked a few questions like “How much have you had to drink?” and he has told you that you’ve “failed” the field sobriety tests.
He says, “Please turn around and put your hands on the hood of my vehicle. I’m placing you under arrest for suspicion of DWI.”
Let’s be clear: You will be taken into custody, placed into a patrol unit and taken to the local jail. If you’re arrested for DWI in Harris County near Houston, you’re usually transported to the downtown jail at 701 San Jacinto Street.
On the record
Often times the arresting officer does not read you your “rights” at the time of arrest. The Miranda warnings are only required if they plan on questioning you, which often has already happened during their investigation (pre-arrest) or after you have been processed.
Note that even though your rights have not been read, the police may still use anything you say to them while you’re in custody. That includes statements you make while sitting in the police car while they transport you. Today, most patrol cars are equipped with recording equipment, so police can use anything you say while in the unit as evidence against you.
In lieu of your Miranda rights
However, the arresting officer will often read you a “Statutory Warning” and request that you provide a breath or blood specimen. Where they transport you depends on whether you voluntarily choose to provide the specimen or not. If you decide to provide a breath specimen, you will be transported to a station with a breath machine called the Intoxilyzer 9000. For a blood specimen, they will send you to a hospital, jail, or other “sanitary” facility to draw your blood. If you refuse to provide a blood specimen, the officer will likely summon a magistrate to issue a search warrant him to exercise “reasonable force” to take the blood specimen from you. This includes restraining you to a chair by fellow officers.
What happens to your car after a DWI arrest?
At this point, your vehicle will more likely be searched, towed and stored in a local impound yard. If your car is towed in Houston, call 713-308-8580. This is the Wrecker Tow Line. Or go to the HoustonPolice.org website and click on “Towed Vehicle Reporting Management System”. You can search for your vehicle by license plate or by VIN. You’ll need to pay the towing charge and the daily impound fees to get your vehicle released. Sometime between arrest and transport, you may be given an opportunity to notify friends or family.
STEP 2: Jail
Once you arrive at the local jail, you’ll be processed, which usually includes an officer taking down your personal information (i.e., name, address, DOB, SSN, etc.). Beyond this information, you are not required to speak with the officer(s) and should invoke your Constitutional rights by remaining silent and requesting a lawyer.
The jail will seize and inventory your personal belongings and return them only after you have been released. If any of your personal possessions are considered “evidence,” you may not get them back.
You may also be fingerprinted to confirm your identity and to check if you have any outstanding warrants or are suspected in any other pending criminal matters.
STEP 3: Bail
Bail is a monetary amount that the court sets for you to pay for a prompt jail release and to assure your appearance in court. The court usually sets bail for first-time offenders at approx. $500. Bail may be posted as a cash bond with the Sheriff or Court or, if you cannot afford bail, you can secure a surety through a bail bondsman.
There are a number of credible bondsmen locally. Call the Trichter & Murphy office to get an immediate recommendation for one depending upon where you’ve been arrested.
The time from when you are arrested to your release may take around 12 hours depending upon where you’ve been arrested.
STEP: 4: Hire your DWI attorney
Hire an attorney to defend you as soon as you can after you’ve bonded out and have been released. The legal proceedings after being arrested for DWI are complicated and daunting. Not having proper legal representation when you’ve been arrested for DWI in Texas can leave you vulnerable and can adversely affect your life and career forever. Don’t take this decision lightly.
A lot of defense attorneys “handle” DWI cases, but very few of them have experience in winning and contesting them in jury trials. Ask questions as you research what attorney you want to handle your case:
- Does the firm have any board certified DWI Specialists? (Trichter & Murphy is home to the only three DWI Specialists in Houston. There are only four in Texas.)
- How long has the attorney been handling DWI cases?
- How many cases has the attorney handled in the last year?
- Does the lawyer truly understand the science that goes into winning DWI cases?
- How much training has the lawyer had in defending DWI cases?
- How much trial experience does the lawyer have in DWI cases?
- How does the lawyer define justice for its clients?
- How does the attorney define a “favorable outcome” in your case? Is dismissal the only course that the attorney is looking to pursue?
- How many attorneys are there in the firm?
- Do the attorney’s in the firm work as a team?
- What kind of resources does your firm have compared to other firms?
Prosecutors usually use the breath or blood test as their focal point in evidence in DWI cases. A defense attorney that has experience in DWI cases should know the science and procedures in these cases better than the police officers and prosecutors. A DWI Specialist like those at Trichter & Murphy understand the tests’ flaws and how to expose them before a jury in a persuasive way.
STEP 5: Meet with your DWI attorney
After you’ve been arrested for DWI in Houston, over time, your memory will fade, so it’s essential to relay any details that can help win your case to your attorney as soon as possible. DWI cases are won and lost in the details, so provide your lawyer with as many details about your current life circumstances like:
- Medical conditions like injuries, recent illnesses or medications that may affect your physical well being
- Work-related issues like stress, loss of job or on-the-job injury
- Personal circumstances like divorce or a death in the family
- Any details of your day and night leading up to the arrest from the traffic stop and investigation through the booking process.
Don’t share these details with anyone but your attorney. Keep in mind that attorney-client privilege protects everything you discuss with him or her.
Arrested for DWI in Texas? Leave the details to us
It’s natural to obsess over the potential consequences and outcome. Although it’s easier said than done, let your attorney take care of the details. He or she will let you know of approaching deadlines (your ALR hearing to save your Driver’s License from suspension), what will happen at your next court date, strategy, options, and generally what to expect throughout the entire process.
At Trichter & Murphy, we will not only aggressively fight and defend you, we take much of that stress and burden off your shoulders. Our experienced DWI attorneys handle hundreds of DWI cases each year. We’re experienced, reputable and trained in forensic science, and we use that knowledge to get favorable results for our clients.