A DWI is taken very seriously in Texas, and a conviction can result in severe penalties. Depending on the facts, such as the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level, prior convictions, or other aggravating factors, a person convicted of driving while intoxicated could face jail or even prison time. In some cases, it might be possible to avoid incarceration, such as by applying for probation or seeking a not guilty verdict. In either situation, it’s wise to retain legal representation. A knowledgeable attorney can assist with navigating the justice system, fighting for their client’s rights, and pursuing an optimal outcome.
The Elements of a Texas DWI
Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code states that operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated can result in serious charges.
To prove that a defendant violated the DWI law, a prosecutor must show that the individual:
- Was driving in a public place, and
- Had consumed alcohol, a drug, and/or a controlled substance, which impaired their normal faculties, or
- Had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more, regardless of their level of impairment.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF A DWI CONVICTION
A DWI conviction is no small matter. The defendant faces jail (or even prison!) time, with punishments depending heavily on the facts of the case.
Below are possible terms of confinement for different DWI offenses:
- First-time violation: 72 hours to 180 days in jail
- First-time violation with a BAC of 0.15 or more or a second-time violation: Up to 1 year in jail
- DWI with a child passenger: 180 days to 2 years in state jail
- DWI causing injury to another person or third-time violation: 2 to10 years in prison
- DWI causing death to another person: 2 to 20 years in prison
Seeking to Avoid Jail Time
Incarceration is possible in a DWI case, but options may be available to avoid it. These include being granted community supervision or fighting the charge and working toward a favorable outcome.
PROBATION (COMMUNITY SUPERVISION)
For those accused of a DWI in Texas, probation (called community supervision) may be an alternative to jail. The program may be available to certain defendants who plead or are found guilty of the offense.
The judge will defer the case for a specified time, withholding the entry of a judgment or sentence, provided that doing so is in the best interest of justice. They will order that the defendant complete conditions and satisfy various sanctions during that period.
If the defendant fails to meet the court-ordered requirements, they can be arrested and detained. They will also be scheduled for a hearing to determine whether a probation violation occurred. If the judge determines that the defendant did not comply, they can enter a judgment and impose sentences for the original DWI charge.
Community supervision is not available in all DWI matters.
A judge cannot grant it if the defendant was charged with any of the following:
- DWI with a child passenger
- Intoxication assault
- Intoxication manslaughter
- DWI by a commercial driver’s license holder
- DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or more
- DWI subject to enhanced penalties under Texas Penal Code § 49.09
In short, probation is generally available only if this is the defendant’s first violation and no aggravating factors were present.
FIGHTING THE CHARGE
Although probation is not available for all DWI defendants, avoiding or minimizing jail time is still possible. Defendants can submit evidence to weaken the prosecutor’s arguments. Such evidence can include witness statements or errors in chemical test analyses.
Presenting counterarguments can create doubt in the minds of a judge or jury. If the triers of facts are not convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, they should not convict the defendant.
HOW AN ATTORNEY CAN HELP WITH YOUR CASE
Engaging the services of an experienced attorney can be beneficial if you are facing a DWI charge. They can examine evidence to build and present a compelling defense strategy. Furthermore, they can use their legal insight to determine whether options like probation are available to help avoid jail time.
Discuss your case with one of our Dallas lawyers by contacting Deandra Grant Law at (214) 225-7117.