What to Expect When You Get a DWI in Texas

Getting pulled over for any reason by police can be frightening. If a law enforcement officer arrests you for driving while intoxicated (DWI), you may be confused and unsure of what to do. You may not realize all the consequences you could face before you even go to trial.

Understanding what to expect when you get a DWI in Texas can help you stay calm and take action to protect your rights. Attorney Jorge Vela, an accomplished DWI defense lawyer in Austin, explains what you will experience after your arrest.  

What Happens When You Get a DWI in Texas

When you are arrested, you begin a confusing journey through the criminal justice system. No one is on your side, and everything you do or say can work against you. It helps to know how to behave to protect yourself during every step.

Your Blood Alcohol Content Is Tested

You may be asked to blow into a testing device by police to determine your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). In Texas, anything over 0.08% means you are intoxicated and serves as evidence for your arrest. If you refuse, you face additional penalties. However, you could be forced to submit to a blood test at the police station.

You are Brought Before a Magistrate, and Bond is Set

At the station, you will be fingerprinted, photographed, and held until you are brought before a magistrate (judge) to be magistrated.  Magistration refers to an initial appearance before a judge where the judge will advise you of the charges you are facing and the constitutional rights you possess throughout the criminal process.  The judge will also set bail in your case in order to allow you the opportunity to be released from jail while your case proceeds through the court system.   

You Post Your Bond or “Bail Out”

The judge will decide what your bond will be, and you will make those arrangements with the court. The amount of bond that a judge sets depends on a number of factors, including your “risk of flight” and whether or not you are a continuing threat to the community if released. The judge will consider the facts of the case, your criminal history, your ties to the local community, and any other factor that may influence your ability to be present at any future court proceedings.  

Evidence that you were highly intoxicated, that you crashed your vehicle as a result of your intoxication, or that you have a pattern of similar criminal conduct may result in a higher bond.  If you live out of state or have been accused of bail jumping or missing court, the judge may also place a higher bond to add greater security that you will attend court if released. 

If the bond set in your case is too high to afford, an attorney may be able to petition the court to lower your bond amount in order to be released. An attorney may be able to secure a “personal bond” which allows you to be released without paying any amount of money.  A personal bond simply requires a signature and the promise to appear at any future court proceedings.  These types of bonds are reserved for individuals that are accused of non-violent offenses and who have strong ties to the local community.

This is why it is imperative that the first person you call after being arrested is an experienced attorney.  Hiring an attorney before you hire a bondsman can potentially save you thousands of dollars in bail fees and court costs.  If you cannot provide the required portion personally, you can ask friends or family members to pay. Other options include using a bail bond service. 

Your License Is Revoked

The police officers will take your driver’s license and issue a temporary driving permit so you can drive to work, court, and school until your trial. However, if you want to keep your license in good standing, you must request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing within 15 days of being served with the statutory warnings.

Your attorney can help fight your license suspension at the ALR hearing.  If you timely request an ALR hearing, the Texas Department of Public Safety will then be required to prove that the police officer followed the law when they arrested you for driving while intoxicated.  An attorney can attack the probable cause for the traffic stop and the probable cause for the arrest.

If you don’t timely request an ALR hearing, your license will be suspended 40 days after you are arrested.

Pre-Trial Diversion in Texas

If you’re a first-time offender and have no criminal background, you may be able to qualify for the Pre-Trial Diversion program. This option keeps you out of jail and can remove the charge from your record. If you complete it successfully, it’s a win-win: you do not have a criminal conviction, and Texas spends less time and money on you as a potential inmate. 

You will be assessed for pre-trial diversion during your arraignment hearing.

What Happens If You Go To Trial for a DWI?

Pleading not guilty gives you the most options for success in a DWI case. Your attorney will initially ask the prosecutor to reduce the charges or dismiss them completely. If the prosecutor is unwilling to dismiss the charges, your lawyer will begin filing a series of pre-trial motions to exclude any evidence against you.

Mistakes in police procedures, faulty BAC test results, and many other circumstances can mean that the evidence the state has against you can be thrown out. If your DWI attorney is successful in poking enough holes in the prosecutor’s case, the prosecutor may decide it’s not worth their time to pursue a conviction. 

If the case against you is still strong enough, your attorney will prepare your defense strategy to either avoid a conviction or at a minimum reduce the charges you are facing.

If your lawyer is unable to negotiate a favorable deal with the prosecutor, you will always the right to request a jury trial in order to force the prosecutor to prove the charges against you in open court.  Jury trials come with risks and can be costly and time-consuming.  This is another reason to hire an attorney with trial experience.  Your lawyer will also work to select a favorable jury so you stand the best chance of a fair trial. The state will present its case to the jury and will need to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney will present your defense and can also cross-examine any witnesses that are brought to testify against you.

When the Verdict Is Given

At the end of the trial, the jury will deliberate and decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. If you are found guilty, you can choose whether the judge or jury issues your sentence. Typically, you will be subject to fines, license suspension, and time in jail

If you are found not guilty, you can begin working to have the charge expunged (removed) from your record. 

Is DWI a Misdemeanor or a Felony in Texas?

Most DWIs are misdemeanors in Texas. However, a DWI can be charged as a felony when it is your third time, or you have aggravating circumstances, such as having a child under the age of 15 in your car at the time of your arrest. You will lose your license for an additional six months and be charged new fines up to $10,000.

If you are convicted of any offense or plead guilty to any offense, you are not eligible to have the conviction expunged from your record. Also, if you are convicted of a felony, you may have difficulty finding work after being released and may suffer additional secondary consequences. This is why building a solid defense with an accomplished attorney is critical to protecting your rights, freedom, and future.

Speak With Attorney Jorge Vela About Your DWI Charge Today

Instead of risking harsh penalties and a damaged reputation, turn to the knowledgeable team at the Law Offices of Jorge Vela. We will evaluate your case during your initial consultation and advise you on your next steps. 

We understand the laws in Texas around DWI and are prepared to defend you against aggressive prosecutors who want to make an example of you in their court. Schedule your meeting with us by phone or in person today. 

Jorge Vela

Jorge Vela

Jorge Vela is a seasoned attorney with experience in both prosecution and defense. A graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of Texas School of Law, he has served as a felony prosecutor in Webb County and an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Texas. In 2017, he worked as an Assistant District Attorney for Travis County. Since 2018, Jorge has been a criminal defense attorney, leveraging his extensive experience to protect the rights of individuals accused of a crime through his practice, the Law Office of Jorge Vela.

Talk to a Lawyer Today

Call now or send us a message to tell us what happened.


Quam viverra orci sagittis eu. Lacus vesti bulum sed arcu.