After the initial shock of a DWI arrest wears off, many people get very scared. The mound of paperwork they received talks about conditions of release, license suspension, and other concepts that are difficult to understand. A brief Internet search of phrases like “DWI consequences” reveals more bad news. Making matters even worse, many DWI defendants have never been arrested for anything before and/or English is not their first language.
The purpose of this post is not to discuss the possible punishments for a Harris County DWI. Instead, this post should be a resource to help you make it through your initial court date.
When and Where to Go
The paperwork varies according to the law enforcement agency that handled the arrest. But generally, most defendants receive a green sheet of paper that says “BAIL BOND” near the top. This sheet contains the date, time, and courtroom for your initial appearance.
All court appearances for a Harris county DWI arrest are always mandatory.
Even if you have the best DWI attorney in Houston, you will have to go to court when it is scheduled. Plan to be there most of the morning, but it should not extend past the lunch hour. Your first appearance will take more time than follow up appearances as the case progresses.
The Harris County Criminal Justice Center is a beige, twenty-story building in downtown Houston.
If you take the train, get off at Preston Station. Go about a block and a half north on Main Street then turn right on Franklin. The CJC is about two blocks away. Do not go into this building. It has been closed since hurricane Harvey. If you have a misdemeanor DWI, your court will be in the family law building directly across the street. If your DWI charge is a felony, your case will be handled in the civil court building one block away.
Allow plenty of extra time to get through the metal detectors and lines at the elevators.
Once you get inside, wait in the courtroom and not in the hall. If your lawyer isn’t there straightaway, don’t worry; they are probably handling another case in a nearby courtroom. If your name is called, simply answer “here” or “present.” If the court staff asks if you have a lawyer, give them our name and they will know who to expect.
Many judges have dress codes, so a good rule is to wear what you would wear to a job interview.
Smoking, gum-chewing, cell phone use, eating, and loud talking are always prohibited. Do not go to court intoxicated or hung over. Many judges will drug test you on the spot if you are late or appear impaired.
What Will Happen at Court?
Your lawyer will be busy gathering information about your case on the first appearance.
Your lawyer will be gathering reports, copies of videos (if they are available), and requesting other discovery items. Video and chemical test evidence may not be available for several weeks or even longer. Furthermore, if there is a crash victim, prosecutors must reach out with a RIP (restitution, injuries, and punishment) call to find out how they want to pursue the DWI charges.
Do not leave the courtroom area until your lawyer says that you are free to go home.
There may be some additional paperwork, especially on your first appearance. This is an important reason why you do not want to go to your first court appearance without your lawyer.
Connect with an Experienced Lawyer
Knowing where to go and what to expect helps calm nerves at your first court appearance. For a free consultation with an experienced DWI defense attorney in Houston, contact the Law Office of Jim Medley. Every day we handle DWI defense in Harris County, Texas.