A common question a Tarrant County DWI lawyer at our office gets is, “Why is Tarrant County so tough on DWIs?”
To understand that, you have to have a little history lesson on retired prosecutor Richard Alpert. For more than three decades, Alpert was the “go-to prosecutor” for DWI, intoxication assault, and intoxication manslaughter cases in Tarrant County. During that time, he literally wrote the books on DWI and intoxication manslaughter prosecutions, which were used throughout the state. He was once referred to as the “toughest DWI prosecutor in Texas” by the Star-Telegram. His legacy lives on in many ways and one of them is that Tarrant County is serious about DWI prosecution.
In 2019, there were 5,261 misdemeanor Driving While Intoxicated cases filed in Tarrant County. Of those, only 148 were dismissed. Undoubtedly beating a DWI in Tarrant County is a tough proposition. (Be wary of anyone who promises a dismissal or reduction.) So how is it that we are able to achieve dismissals, acquittals, and reductions of DWIs in Tarrant County? Two intertwined reasons: First, we have more trial experience than any prosecutor that is going to be handling your case. Second, our experience as trial attorneys makes us exceptionally well-qualified to find weaknesses in your case that we can leverage for the best possible outcome – and the prosecutors know it.
This article covers seven top ways to beat a DWI case in Tarrant County.
Why Should You Listen to Us about Tarrant County DWIs?
So, why should you listen to us if you’ve been arrested for a DWI in Tarrant County? We have successfully defended every level of DWI in Texas. All the partners at the firm started off as prosecutors in Tarrant County. We’ve each tried over 100 cases to juries in Texas. We’ve defended everything from a Class B misdemeanor DWI to intoxication manslaughter cases at trial that involved multiple deaths. There’s not an issue that we haven’t seen on a DWI case – and we are exceptionally adept at spotting issues with cases and then leveraging those issues for phenomenal results.
What is a DWI in Texas?
In the simplest terms, driving while intoxicated is an allegation that a person used a vehicle for its intended purpose while the person was not normal physically, or mentally, or when the person had a Blood Alcohol Concentration of a .08 or greater. A person can be intoxicated on alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription drugs, or a combination of those substances.
How to Beat a DWI Case in Tarrant County
While not every case is going to be dismissed, reduced, or result in an acquittal, finding every weakness in your case is a good first step in reaching the best possible outcome. Here are the steps a Tarrant County DWI attorney at our firm goes through when analyzing a case:
- The basis for the stop or police interaction: Whether the police came up to a stopped vehicle or initiated a traffic stop, we look at the stop/encounter for any weaknesses. While police can “encounter” you at any point, many mistake a stop for an encounter. For instance, if they roll up behind your parked vehicle making it impossible for you to leave, that might be a “stop” even though they never initiated their lights and siren. If they did stop you, we look to see if they actually developed reasonable suspicion for the stop – or did they jump the gun.
- Operation issues: The prosecution doesn’t have to prove you were driving, but they do have to prove that you operated the vehicle for its intended purpose. We have, for example, gotten cases dismissed where our client was intoxicated but entered the car and turned it on to sleep it off.
- Roadside interaction: The next thing we look at are the questions the officer asked you at the side of the road. What admissions, if any, were made. Did the officer ask you the right questions? For instance, if he did not ask you what time your last drink was, the prosecutors can’t perform “retrograde extrapolation” which is how they guesstimate what your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) was based on a breath or blood test that’s take an hour or even hours later.
- Probable Cause for the Arrest: We look at how the officer administered the field sobriety tests. If they were not administered correctly, the results might be useless. If we can show the officer failed to develop probable cause (perhaps you refused to do tests) we might be able to get the arrest kicked out.
- Probable Cause in the Warrant for Blood: Sometimes the officer develops probable cause for the arrest but doesn’t articulate it well in the affidavit for search warrant. If we can show a lack of probable cause, we can get a compelled blood test kicked out.
- No Breath or Blood Test: While it is rare, if there’s not a breath or blood test in your case, we look at whether the state can prove its case based on their now subjective definitions of intoxication. The burden is on the prosecutor – and they are the ones who dropped the ball if there’s no breath or blood result. Just because you “look bad” on video does not mean you should necessarily enter a plea in your case.
- Issues with Testing: We look for issues with the lab and well as the individuals who touched the blood or the breath test machine or who are in the chain of custody. Any weakness we can find in the chain might be leverage to get evidence thrown out.
What should I expect at my first court date for a DWI in Tarrant County?
Your “first court date” is a somewhat amorphous term. For example, if you were released on a personal recognizance bond or a personal bond of any type, you’ll be given what is essentially a placeholder court date – which is really just a way to make you check-in until your case is filed. Once your case is filed into a criminal court, you will be set for an “Initial Appearance” in Tarrant County. The purpose of the Initial Appearance is two-fold. First, the judge wants to make sure you have an attorney. Second, the judge wants to see if there are any additional bond conditions you need.
If you’ve hired our firm (and you should have already because you only have 15 days to request an ALR hearing – we’ll get to that in a bit) a Tarrant County DWI lawyer from our office will reach out to the court to get you excused. If your case was filed as a repeat offense, if you are under 21, or if you had a BAC of .15 or greater, the judge will require that you have an interlock installed on any vehicle you drive and we will walk you through that process before the Initial Appearance (or “IA”) setting, so that you can be excused from court. Outside of those three categories, judges will routinely let us excuse you from that IA setting.
After the Initial Appearance comes your first real DWI court setting in Tarrant County. So, what should you expect? You’ll be set for a “Consultation Setting.” This means you and your attorney will appear in court. Your attorney will talk to the prosecutor, the judge, the court coordinator and will then come talk to you. (In the midst of the pandemic, stay in touch with your attorney. You may have a virtual setting, or be excused from the setting altogether.) At our firm, the Tarrant County DWI Lawyer you hired will have already spoken to the prosecutor, talked to you, set your expectations, and in many cases already have you started on a mitigation packet.
Your first court setting is not like you see on TV. There won’t be witnesses there. Pre-pandemic, it was a group of 50 to 80 people showing up for court at the same time. Mid-pandemic, the settings are staggered or postponed – but it is still very much a non-event if you’ve been staying in touch with your attorney. If there’s an exception to this – that is, you are getting close to a case resolution, our Tarrant County DWI attorney would have walked you through exactly what to expect, what a plea would look like, the plea paperwork, what questions the judge will ask and exactly how to answer those questions. In other words, nothing should come as a surprise.
What is the Punishment Range for a DWI?
|DWI Offense||Sentencing Range||Probation Range||License Suspension on Conviction|
|Driving While Intoxicated||3 days – 180 days in county jail||Up to 2 years probation, up to 2 years deferred adjudication (0-30 days in jail as a condition of probation)||90 days – 1 year; if under 21 it is 1 year|
|Driving While Intoxicated – Open Container||6-180 days in county jail||Up to 2 years probation, up to 2 years deferred adjudication (0-30 days in jail as a condition of probation)||90 days – 1 year; if under 21 it is 1 year|
|Driving While Intoxicated BAC .15 or||Up to 1 year in county jail||Up to 2 years probation (0-30 days in jail as a condition of probation)||90 days – 1 year; if under 21 it is 1 year|
|DWI Misdemeanor Repetition||30 days to 1 year in county jail||Up to 2 years probation, with 72 hours – 30 days as a mandatory condition of probation, unless the previous DWI was in the last five years, in which case 5-30 days as a mandatory condition of probation.||180 days – 2 years|
|DWI Child Passenger||180 days to 2 years in State Jail||Up to 5 years probation, with up to 180 days in jail as a condition of probation||90 days – 1 year; if under 21 it is 1 year|
|DWI Felony Repetition||2-10 years in Prison||Up two 10 years probation, and 10-180 days in jail as a mandatory condition of probation.||90 days – 1 year; if under 21 it is 1 year|
|Intoxication Assault||2-10 years in Prison||Up to 10 years probation, 30-180 days in jail as a mandatory condition of probation.||90 days – 1 year; if under 21 it is 1 year|
|Intoxication Manslaughter||2-20 years in Prison||Up to 10 years probation, 120 – 180 days in jail as a mandatory condition of probation.||180 days – 2 years|
What happens to your driver’s license once you are arrested for a DWI?
There are two different instances when you are going to have to deal with a Driver’s License issue after a DWI arrest. The first is based on what you do when you’re asked for a specimen of breath or blood. The second, as described in the chart above, depends on whether you are convicted of a DWI.
If you refuse to give a sample of your breath or blood upon request, your license will be suspended for a period of 180 days. That suspension goes into effect 40 days after your license is confiscated.
If you provide a sample that is over a .08, your license will be suspended for 90 days. The suspension goes into effect 40 days after you receive the notice of suspension or are presumed to have received it. You only have 15 days to request a hearing (Administrative License Revocation “ALR” hearing) once you receive the notice, so contacting a Tarrant County DWI Lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest is imperative.
How expensive is a DWI in Texas?
|Costs Incurred on First-time Misdemeanor DWI||Low End||High End|
|Bond||0 (Released on personal recognizance)||$2,500 (Assuming a cash bond was posted, bondsman charge less than the face value of the bond.)|
|Pre-Trial Supervision||0 (If not required to report)||$720 (12 months)|
|Interlock (Over .15, under age 21, or repeat offense) (Around $125 to install and $75 a month after)||0 (If not required)||$1,025|
|SCRAM (portable alcohol monitor)||(Generally optional, for instance, if a person does not have a car to put an interlock on.)||$4,200|
|ALR (Administrative License Revocation) and License Fees||Not mandatory, if you have another way to get around.||$100-350 depending on whether witnesses are subpoenaed.|
|ALR Attorney Fee||Not mandatory, if you have another way to get around.||$750|
|Occupational License||Not mandatory, if you have another way to get around.||$400|
|Occupational License Attorney Fee||Not mandatory, if you have another way to get around.||$750|
|SR-22 Insurance Certificate||Not mandatory, if you have another way to get around.||$600|
|Fines||$750 (It is rare to see a fine lower than this, although 0 fine is possible)||$2,000|
|Probation Fees||0 (If dismissed, acquitted, or jailed)||$1,440 (2 years probation)|
|DWI Classes and Conditions||0 (If dismissed, acquitted, or jailed)||$400|
|Mandatory Fine Upon Conviction||$3,000||$6,000 if BAC is greater than .15.|
A first-time DWI arrest can easily cost you $5,000 on the low-end up and upwards of $15,000 on the high end. This does not include the fact that your insurance rates may go up for a period if you are convicted of a DWI. One of the things that our Fort Worth DWI Attorneys look for are ways we can save you money, such as negotiating reduced fines and avoiding convictions that come with hefty price tags. Hiring the best DWI attorney for your case is money well spent in every regard – including from a financial perspective.
Call for a Free Consultation with our Tarrant County DWI Lawyer
A DWI arrest can happen to anyone. It’s not an intentional offense. Yet the consequences are severe and can affect your livelihood, ability to drive, your finances, and your criminal record for a lifetime. If you’ve been charged with a DWI in Tarrant County, don’t delay. Call us immediately for a free consultation with an experienced Tarrant County DWI lawyer at (817) 203-2220.