First DWI Offense: What You Need to Know

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If you’re like most people, when you realize you’ve received a DWI you’re hungover and feel like dirt. Knowing you tried to drive last night doesn’t make you feel any better. The fact that you feel such remorse shows you aren’t a bad person, but just someone who made a mistake. It’s different for someone who makes five-ish or twenty mistakes, but Texas State Law allows first offenders to prove it was a one-time lack of judgment. It’s not the end of the world, but there is a procedure to go through to resolve the issue.

What You Need to Know

Texas State Law is very specific as to how a DWI is treated by both the DMV and the courts. The first thing to happen is your license is revoked and a temporary permit issued until your court date, at which time your license will be suspended for up to two years unless you agree to have your car equipped with an Interlok Breathalyzer System to prevent it from running without verification of a sober driver. For some people, the license suspension can be the worst aspect of the DWI penalties as it interrupts your ability to conduct routine business.

In addition to the license suspension, if convicted there will be a fine up to $2,000. There is an additional license reinstatement fee of $125 along with payments for the Interlock System. There may be further fees associated with community service and probation along with one-time or ongoing attorney fees as the situation calls for and a fee for a bail bondsman at the time of the initial arrest.

Jail time of course can’t be overlooked as part of the penalty. In addition to the time served as part of the initial arrest, jail time can be from three to 180 days. Additionally, if there was an open container in the vehicle, the minimum becomes six days. A number of factors are evaluated to determine the exact sentence, including such things as gross intoxication, whether minors were in the car, your cooperation with the officer during the arrest, and even your demeanor during court proceedings. There may be additional charges if applicable for other crimes committed during the driving episode, most notably damages or injuries caused.

What You Need to Do

Don’t drive during a license suspension as it can be devastating to the case. Abide by any other instructions given to you by police, jailers or preliminary hearing judges. You may want an alcohol assessment to present in court, along with arranging for character witnesses to appear.

You need to hire an attorney to represent you in court, and follow any advice he may give you. A lawyer may be able to find a technicality in the way the arrest was conducted or how the paperwork was filled out which discards the evidence against you. Otherwise, he’ll be able to argue for leniency and get you the lightest sentence possible.

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Jennifer Long