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Pleading Guilty to DWI Should be Your Last Resort

Unlike most criminal offenses in Texas, it is impossible to get deferred adjudication probation (or non-conviction probation) for DWI and DWI related offenses, like DWI 2nd, DWI 3rd, intoxication assault, and intoxication manslaughter. That means one of three things is guaranteed to happen to a person arrested for DWI:

  • 1. She will be found "not guilty" by a judge or a jury after a trial.
  • 2. She will be found "guilty" by a judge or a jury after a trial. "Guilty" verdicts also occur in DWI cases anytime the accused pleads guilty, usually as the result of a plea bargain agreement between the defense and prosecution. Because deferred adjudication isn't an option in DWI cases, if the accused pleads guilty, the court must find her guilty.
  • 3. The DWI charge is dropped by the arresting police agency, or refused for prosecution or dismissed by the district attorney's office. These rarely happen. DA's Offices in Collin, Denton, Dallas, Tarrant, Sherman, and Rockwall rarely dismiss DWI cases, and if they do it is usually because the arresting officer has been fired or because the defense won a motion to suppress evidence the state needs to prosecute the case.

First offense DWI is a class "B" misdemeanor, which is punishable by not less than 72 hours and up to 180 days in the county jail and an optional fine of up to $2,000. A first time DWI can also be a class "A" misdemeanor if the blood or breath alcohol concentration was greater than 0.15. Class "A" misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in the county jail and an optional fine of up to $4,000.

The charge of DWI 2nd Offense is a class "A" misdemeanor. Unlike with first time DWI charges, a conviction for DWI 2nd carries a mandatory jail sentence of 3 days as a condition of probation. That's right. In addition to probation, a person convicted of DWI 2nd must also serve a minimum of 3 days and up to 30 days in jail as a requirement of probation.

What is probation like for DWI cases in Collin County and the Dallas-Ft. Worth area? Probation for DWI and DWI 2nd convictions can be for up to two years, and may be extended by the court for one additional year. Below is an overview of DWI and DWI 2nd probation.

  • 1. Report to a probation officer in-person at least one time per month.
  • 2. Pay a probation reporting fee of approximately $50.00 per month.
  • 3. Take the DWI Education Course. If sentenced to probation, taking the DWI Education Course prevents a driver's license suspension which normally occurs upon a DWI conviction.
  • 4. Attend a Victim Impact Panel, which is a panel of three to four victims of a DWI accident who speak about how their lives were changed by a drunk driver.
  • 5. Perform community service, usually between 30 and 80 hours.
  • 6. No alcohol consumption while on probation.
  • 7. Random drug testing.
  • 8. If the breath or blood test was greater than 0.15, or if it was a DWI 2nd, a deep-lung device must be installed on any car the probationer drives. If the probationer doesn't drive, then the courts usually require some type of in-home breath machine or personal alcohol detection device, such as a SCRAM unit (basically an ankle bracelet that detects alcohol usage).
  • 9. Take a substance abuse evaluation and abide by any recommendations, such as meeting with an addiction counselor, attending Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, or in-patient and/or out-patient alcohol and drug treatment program, etc.
  • 10. The Texas Department of Public Safety imposes surcharges for DWI convictions. A surcharge is a penalty assessed against your driver's license following a DWI conviction. The surcharges must be paid to keep your driver's license in good standing. Surcharge amounts are as follows:
  • DWI First Offense: $1,000.00 per year for three years.
  • DWI Second Offense: $1,500.00 per year for three years.
  • DWI w/ blood alcohol over 0.16: $2,000.00 per year for three years.
  • 11. Make a donation to Mothers Against Drunk Drivering and/or Crime Stoppers, usually $50.00.
  • 12. Remain in the county of your residence unless the judge gives permission to travel.
  • 13. Commit no new crimes.
  • 14. Maintain employment.
  • 15. Agree to voluntarily provide a sample of breath or blood if requested by an officer upon arrest for a new DWI charge; refusing to do so would be a violation of probation.

What happens if someone charged with misdemeanor DWI has a trial and loses? Generally, the punishment is the same as if she had accepted a plea bargain offer and pleaded guilty. When clients understand this, they start to see that going to trial isn't so scary.

Facing DWI charges is frightening. Having an experienced, aggressive defense attorney to fight for you can make all the difference. Contact Keith Gore, an experienced DWI criminal defense attorney practicing in McKinney, Plano, Dallas, Allen, Denton, Frisco, Sherman, Ft. Worth, and Rockwall.

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Keith Gore, Lawyer
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McKinney, TX 75071

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