Why Pleading Guilty to DWI May Not Be Your Best Option.
In many counties, it may seem that the Government’s strategy is to wear you down with numerous and tedious court appearances to make you plea guilty to your DWI charges. The government wears you down in the process so much that you accept a guilty plea “just to get it over with.”
You Have A Right Not to Plead Guilty to DWI
Accepting a guilty plea is more expeditious. It ends the process but could begin a different nightmare as you fulfill the obligations of the plea agreement. But then you have to live with a DWI conviction which can do great harm to your career, your financial well-being, and your social well-being.
We understand getting impatient and wanting to end things as soon as possible because we represent hundreds of DWI, DUI and BWI clients every year. We also spend a lot of time counseling people whom we didn’t represent in their DWI case who regret accepting the plea. Many of them, who were represented elsewhere, simply didn’t understand the consequences of their decision.
Run the Marathon
We tell our clients to be patient with the process. Defending DWI charges isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. It’s important to mount an aggressive defense and allow the process to take its course.
Many lawyers don’t understand the consequences of a DWI outside the punishment that’s written on the plea paperwork. We’ve worked with intoxicated-related offenses for years, so we know the collateral consequences of a plea. It would be daunting to list every possible consequence scenario, so choose an attorney who can answer your questions based on your life and career.
The Truth About DWI Conviction Consequences
Here are a few of the more common concerns and consequences of pleading guilty to DWI.
Your Personal and Commercial Driver License Will Be Suspended
In addition to your Administrative License Revocation hearing (ALR) ruling, you’ll suffer additional suspensions and consequences as a result of your DWI conviction:
Charge Length of Suspension
DWI 1st 90 days – 1 year
DWI 2nd 180 days – 1 year
DWI 3rd 180 days – 1 year
On a first-time DWI, your license won’t be suspended if you receive probation and complete the DWI education course as a condition of your probation. However, as a probation condition, the court may order you not to drive or order you to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle. This will cancel your current driver’s license. But, if you pay a ten-dollar fee, DPS will issue you a new license that allows you to drive only vehicles with an ignition interlock device.
If you have a commercial driver license, you will likely lose your job if your employer has to install an interlock device on a company vehicle (which most of them won’t do). If you are convicted of a first-time DWI, your commercial driver license will be suspended for one year no matter what your punishment is. In most cases, DPS may issue you an occupational license, but that won’t allow you to operate a commercial or any other vehicle for that matter if it’s prohibited by the terms of your probation.
You’ll Pay Higher Insurance Rates and DWI Surcharges
Most plea agreements don’t spell out the financial consequences of a DWI guilty plea. Besides a meteoric bump in insurance rates, you’ll also be required to carry SR22 insurance and have it on file with the state for two years.
In addition, you’ll be required to pay DPS surcharges on your driver’s license in the following amount:
First DWI $1,000
DWI over .15 breath or blood $2,000
Subsequent DWI’s $1,500
Again, understanding the surcharges prior to taking the plea helps you tremendously because, in certain circumstances, judges can waive the DPS surcharges. Some people have had the surcharges reduced through the Indigency and Incentive Program. But once the bill for the surcharges issues, you have just 105 days to make payment or set up a payment plan through the surcharge program. Otherwise, your license will be suspended.
You Can’t Travel to Some Countries
Most probation pleas prohibit travel outside the State of Texas. By law, you are required to request and receive permission before you can leave the State—and it can be even more difficult to leave the country. Many times, these consequences are overlooked.
Weigh these considerations before you plea guilty to DWI because it’s much easier to get the court to allow travel PRIOR to pleading guilty. Additionally, certain countries will not allow you to enter if you’ve been convicted of DWI.
For instance, Canada will not allow entry unless you do one of two things:
- Receive a Temporary Residence Permit which requests entry for a specified purpose and length of time. You must apply for one each time you want to enter.
- Apply for Criminal Rehabilitation that removes the issue of entry permanently after five years from the date of conviction and all fines are paid or probation has expired.
You’ll Lose Your Job and Few Companies Will Hire You
The most important and arguably the most severe consequence of a DWI conviction is losing your job and career. Each of the above “collateral consequences” could end your career no matter if you are skilled labor or an educated professional.
For instance, if you drive as part of your job, pleading guilty shouldn’t be an option. If you drive a truck, once your CDL is suspended, your job is over. The consequences may be less obvious if you drive a company car as part of a sales or similar position. While you may keep your driver license, some companies will discharge you based on increased insurance rates.
You Could Lose Your Professional License If You Plead Guilty
In Texas, several refineries, chemical, and processing plants require special licenses and security clearance credentials as part of your employment. A DWI conviction could impact your ability to hold these licenses.
If you’re required ignition interlock device on your vehicle as part of your probation, you and your employer may be embarrassed if you take clients in your vehicle. In these situations, the court could allow you to obtain a company letter and allow you to drive your company vehicle without an interlock. But, you have to know that in order to properly request it.
Finally, it’s important to know when to disclose your DWI to your employer. Some employers will keep you on after you’ve been convicted of DWI if they know sooner than later. They may discharge you if you do not notify them of the arrest. Examine your company’s handbook or human resource policies with an experienced DWI attorney who can ensure that you make the proper decision at the beginning of your case.
Your DWI Record Can Be Sealed
Under Texas law and certain provisions, your DWI records can be sealed which means they would be kept concealed from public view. But sealing the record and having it expunged is not the same. Any prosecutor or anyone in law enforcement, will still have access to a sealed record and use it against you to worsen your punishment if you’re arrested for DWI again. An expungement will erase the record completely as though it never happened. Neither one of these are options for you if you plead guilty.
A Guilty Plea is Still An Option
We want to make it clear that a guilty plea to your DWI charge is an option, but, in the end, considering the impact that it will have on your life, you have other options. Please weigh your decision carefully and consult a DWI attorney who can give your proper counsel.
Because, once you plead guilty, it’s too late.