Largely because alcohol-related crashes are still a hot-button political issue and DWI offenses are good moneymakers for the government, Greater Houston is well-known throughout the state for its aggressive DWI arrest and prosecution policies. According to one study, roughly half of Harris County probationers were convicted of an alcohol-related offense, mostly a first DWI.
Despite its prevalence, a DWI is very frightening. The sudden tidal wave of direct and indirect consequences can be almost overwhelming, which is why it’s so important to have an aggressive and compassionate attorney throughout the entire process.
Intoxication means having a BAC above the legal limit (the per se DWI law) or not having the normal use of one’s physical or mental faculties (circumstantial evidence). Without enhancements, a first DWI is a class B misdemeanor. The maximum direct punishments are:
- 72 hours to 180 days in jail (time served may or may not satisfy the 72-hour minimum requirement),
- Fine of up to $2,000, plus court costs, and
- Drivers’ license suspension of 365 days
Probation is nearly always available in these cases; the length varies, but it is normally around two years. In some jurisdictions, but not very many, the defendant can plead guilty to a lesser included offense, such as reckless driving (sometimes called “wet reckless” in this context).
Reckless driving is usually a class C misdemeanor with less jail time, a lower maximum fine, and typically no drivers’ license consequences. Moreover, reckless driving does not have all the collateral consequences of a DWI, some of which are:
- Higher Insurance Rates: Most DWI defendants must obtain an SR-22, which classifies them as high-risk drivers. The higher rates usually last for three years.
- Ignition Interlock Device: If the defendant obtains an occupational drivers’ license for use during the period of suspension, the judge usually requires their vehicle to have an IID, which is colloquially known as a “blow-and-go.” If the driver has a BAC above a threshold level (usually .04) and/or does not provide a sufficient number of samples while the vehicle is in operation, the vehicle will not start or re-start.
- Conditions of Probation: Other common conditions include community service, monthly supervision fees, and monthly check-ins.
DWI probation cannot be terminated early under Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A, and the conviction cannot be expunged pursuant to CCP Article 55. For purposes of future convictions, the first DWI remains on your record for ten years, in most cases.
Count on an Aggressive Attorney
A first DWI is daunting, but not the end of the world. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Houston, contact the Law Office of Jim Medley.