Texas does have a statute of limitations for DWIs. The statute of limitations restricts the amount of time the prosecutor has to take action in a criminal case. The timeframe is not the same for all matters. Misdemeanors and felonies have different deadlines (and various felonies have separate limits based on the severity of the offense).
In short, how long the prosecutor has to bring your case will depend on the facts. But, hoping to beat your DWI by waiting for the statute of limitations to run out may not be the best course of action. More likely than not, the State will commence prosecution within the statutory time limits. Thus, you must build a solid defense to fight your charge.
How the Statute of Limitations Protects Your Criminal Case
When a crime is allegedly committed, it is up to the State (or a prosecutor acting on behalf of the State) to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. Convincing a judge or jury of guilt requires support for the prosecutor’s arguments.
It’s not enough for the prosecutor to say that someone should be convicted because it’s believed they were involved in the offense. They must present evidence to back their claims.
In a DWI case, evidence can include things such as:
- The police officer’s observations
- The defendant’s driving behaviors and answers to the officer’s questions
- The defendant’s performance on field sobriety tests
- The results of a blood or breath test
Over time, any of this evidence can degrade or be mishandled. For example, the officer might forget certain facts, the chemical test results could get mixed up. The longer it takes for the case to begin, the more likely problems will arise with the prosecutor’s evidence.
A deadline for bringing criminal cases prevents substantial issues with evidence. It facilitates a just process by keeping you from being convicted for an offense based on faulty or tainted information. Thus, the statute of limitations ensures that cases are handled with urgency and protects your right to a fair trial.
The Statute of Limitations Is Not the Same for All Crimes
The amount of time the prosecutor has to bring a DWI case depends on whether the offense was a misdemeanor or a felony.
For misdemeanors, action must be taken within 2 years. For felonies, the deadline is 3 years. In DWI cases, the clock starts ticking on the date the violation was committed.
Action taken to begin a DWI case means either an information or indictment is presented. An information is presented when the prosecutor files the charging documents with the proper court. An indictment is presented when a grand jury’s decision is submitted to the court.
When a DWI Is a Misdemeanor
As mentioned above, cases for Class A and B misdemeanors must begin within 2 years after the crime was committed.
So, when does this statute of limitations apply for DWIs?
Generally, driving while intoxicated is a Class B misdemeanor when it’s a first-time violation and the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was less than 0.15. It’s a Class A misdemeanor upon a second violation or a first violation and the BAC was 0.015 or more.
When a DWI Is a Felony
The prosecutor has 3 years to bring charges for most felonies.
A DWI is a felony in several situations:
- State jail felony:
- DWI with a child passenger
- Third-degree felony:
- DWI causing bodily injury to another person (intoxication assault)
- Second-degree felony:
- DWI causing the death of another person (intoxication manslaughter)
Don’t Rely on the Statute of Limitations to Run Out
Waiting to see whether the prosecutor files your DWI within the deadline is not an effective tactic for fighting your charge. Instead, reach out to an attorney to get started on your defense.
Other ways of fighting a DWI include, but are not limited to, challenging:
- The police officer’s actions. If the police officer did not have a lawful reason to pull you over or arrest you, you could ask the court to have evidence thrown out of your case.
- The field sobriety tests. Your performance on field sobriety tests could have been affected by the environment, your clothing, or poor instructions given by the officer.
- The chemical test results. Something other than an alcoholic beverage could have caused a BAC score of 0.08 or more. For instance, your blood or breath sample could have been mishandled, the machine might not have been properly calibrated, or the test administrator might not have followed correct protocols.
Speak with a Defense Attorney About Your Case
Although the prosecutor can run out of time for beginning your DWI case, there’s a very large possibility that you must go through the justice process to resolve the matter. Our Dallas team is here to provide the legal representation you need.
To learn more about how we can help, call Deandra Grant Law at (214) 225-7117 or submit an online contact form today.