DWI Punishments

This page answers the questions you may have about what else can happen to you after a DWI arrest, about your driver’s license, about bond, and about what can happen on DWI probation. Besides the criminal penalties of a DWI arrest and prosecution, there are many other possible collateral side effects from a DWI arrest. Misdemeanor and felony penalties are discussed in another article. For specific and detailed information on the level of charge for different misdemeanor and felony DWI arrests, please visit this page on DWI penalties. However, in this article, the consequences of a conviction are discussed at length. This page deals with the collateral consequences of a DWI arrest, bond, and probation, and everything that goes along with it. This means all of the potential and likely conditions of bond and probation and various other possible results that flow from a DWI arrest, such as the interlock ignition device, conditions of probation and bond, and implications for your driver’s license.

Driver’s License

After a person gets arrested for a DWI charge in Texas, the first thing they have to confront and handle is a potential driver’s license suspension. This process is called an administrative law revocation (ALR). When someone is in the back of a police car or at the police station following arrest, a police officer will read you a page of very boring text that asks you to consent to a blood test or a breath test. This form explains your right to refuse and that if you refuse, a police officer will likely apply for a search warrant to get a blood test. A search warrant cannot be obtained to make a person take a breath test. If a person takes a breath test, it means they have consented to take the test.

On a person’s first DWI arrest, if he or she agrees to take a breath or a blood test and the result of the test returns at above .08 grams per deciliter, they will be notified that they are subject to a three-month driver’s license suspension and they can request a hearing to challenge the suspension. If, on the other hand, a person refuses to take a breath or a blood test, that person will be subject to a six-month driver’s license suspension. The suspension for a refusal will occur regardless of the result of the test, even if there is not a failure. In any case, a request must be made in writing to DPS within 15 days of arrest. If request is not made, the suspension will go into effect 40 days after arrest.  

On a person’s second DWI arrest, the penalties increase in severity and in length. If a person consents to take a breath or blood test and fails it, the license suspension is for one year. If a person refuses to take the test, the suspension will be two years. Occupational driver’s licenses, discussed below, are available for license suspensions. The process is the same as outlined above. A request for a hearing needs to be made in writing to DPS.             

The ALR Hearing

The ALR process involves a short hearing in an administrative court with an administrative law judge. While defendants are required to attend An attorney for DPS will prosecute the case. If the defense attorney wants, he or she can subpoena the arresting officer to come to the hearing. The reasons for this are twofold. If properly subpoenaed, the officer does not show up, the ALR case will be dismissed. On the other hand, if the officer does show up, the defense attorney can get a chance ask him or her questions and get a feel for how they answer and get a sense of how they would testify at trial. This can be valuable insight. This is a free shot, in a sense. Win or lose, the result of the hearing will not affect the criminal case, and the ALR almost always resolves before the criminal case resolves. Even if the person loses their ALR, but the defense attorney gains something by cross examining the police officer, this can be an important step. If someone goes through the administrative law revocation process and loses, or does not request a hearing within the 15 day window, they will need to obtain an occupational driver’s license.

Occupational Driver’s License

When someone gets a license suspension, getting an occupational is available. An occupational license allows someone to drive back and forth to work, to school, and for essential household duties. Many people imagine that this license only allows driving to and from work, but this last phrase, essential household duties, allows a person to complete most any task or errand that is necessary to their lives. After the ALR, or even before the ALR, a petition for occupational driver’s license can be filed. A person needs an SR-22, which is a special kind of supplementary insurance, and with this an attorney can file, usually in a Justice of the Peace Court. When the order granting the license gets issued, it will be valid for 45 days. The attorney will mail it to Texas DPS so they can issue a hard license by mail. Here are some of the conditions a judge will likely place on a restricted license: you cannot refuse a blood or breath test if requested by a police officer, either 12 or 4 hours total driving time per day, maintain a driving log, maintain SR-22 insurance, receive no traffic violations during the length of the occupational, and attend AA once or twice a month.       

Commercial Driver’s License

The suspension for a commercial driver’s license is more serious than a regular Class C Texas driver’s license. The BAC limit for a commercial driver’s license is only 0.04 grams per deciliter or higher. This level is half the limit of a regular non-commercial license. The ALR process happens the same way as it does for regular class C driver’s licenses. The hearing must be requested within 15 days of arrest, unless the person consented to a blood test. When someone consents to a blood test, then the notice of suspension will be pending results. CDL holders going through an ALR suspension face a suspension for one year. However, if the CDL holder is transporting hazardous materials, the suspension is three years.        

Conditions of Bond

Bond conditions for a pending DWI charge can seem like particularly acute punishments, because they come into effect before a person is found guilty. While some serious aggravated felony charges like murder may not have a bond, DWI cases almost always will. Unless there is a hold that prevents someone from being released from jail, a magistrate judge will set a bond amount. The bond amount will vary based on the level of the charge. The bond can either be paid in full by a friend or a family member, or a person can opt to hire a bail bondsperson who will get them out of jail for a small percentage of the bond. When someone pays the bond amount or hires a bail bondsperson, this allows someone with an active case to get released from jail while their case is pending, and while they still have obligations to attend court. If someone does not satisfy the conditions of their bond, they can have their bond found insufficient or revoked. If it is revoked, an attorney will have to talk to the judge about getting a new bond set. Standard bond conditions are to report to court when you have a case, or to report to pretrial release. If a person picks up a new charge while on bond, the person could have their bond revoked. Bond conditions for DWI charges may involve a restriction on alcohol. The most common and troubling bond condition in a DWI case is the interlock ignition device.  

Ignition Interlock Device

The ignition interlock is a device that is attached onto a person’s ignition that forces them to exhale into a tube before the car starts. The interlock will be required as a condition of bond on any felony DWI charge, either felony repetition or DWI with a child under 15. It will also be required on a misdemeanor repetition, or any misdemeanor DWI with an alleged BAC above .15 grams per deciliter. The device is a miniature breath testing machine that uses infrared technology to detect and measure ethanol alcohol molecules. If alcohol molecules are detected, the car will not start, the device will shut down for a brief time. If it shuts down, after a number of minutes it will let the person try again. If an alcohol positive test occurs, this will be reported to the interlock company, then reported to the court. Generally, the court will allow for one positive test before issuing sanctions on the person, although this depends on the court and the level of the charge. If the person is on felony bond, the judge may have zero tolerance. The interlock device cannot distinguish between alcohol and gum that contains mouth alcohol as well as mouthwash. There are many false positives that result in the morning when a person gets in their vehicle to go to work and are surprised to find that the car will not start. While often required as a condition of bond, the interlock is also a feature of probation, discussed below.        

Probation

Both defendants and their attorneys are stuck with the facts of their case. While facts can be reframed, explained, excused, and otherwise mitigated, they often cannot be altogether changed. This section is not about the decision to go to trial compared to the decision to plea a case, but rather the meat and potatoes of DWI punishment, and the realities of probation. Sometimes a defense attorney will make the calculation that the prosecutor can prove their DWI case beyond a reasonable doubt, and will seek to pursue as good of a deal as possible. Often this involves probation. Many DWI cases that become guilty pleas will end in with an agreed term of probation between the defense attorney and the prosecutor. The reasons for agreeing to probation can be strategic and are often desirable because they can keep someone from spending time in jail or prison. Felony DWI probation can be particularly strict and tough, and will definitely require no alcohol.      

Bond v. Probation?   

What is the difference between bond and probation? The difference between bond and probation is the ordering of events. Bond is before the case ends and probation is after the case ends. Both are very similar in the sense that they are both a series of conditions and requirements in exchange for staying out of jail or in the case of felony DWI probation, out of prison. Probation happens after a person agrees to a guilty plea and the judge accepts it. Probation can also involve an interlock ignition device requirement, and a no-alcohol requirement. A major difference between bond and probation is that probation will require classes, court costs, and fines.   

Classes

For misdemeanor DWI probation, there will be a couple of short classes that are required as well as a substance abuse evaluation. Sometimes these classes are required by prosecutor as part of the plea deal, and sometimes these are These are requirements that are standard on most DWI pleas that involve probation. This is true for class B DWI probation, or misdemeanor repetition probation, or DWI with 0.15 probation. The classes on a first offense are the DWI education class, and the MADD victim’s impact panel class. The DWI education class is a twelve-hour course, split up into three sessions of four hours that is offered at many locations around Fort Worth and Dallas and around the metro areas of Texas. It is generally offered on the weekends in a Friday, Saturday, Sunday format. The MADD victim’s impact panel is a one session course that can be completed online in an afternoon. The substance abuse evaluation is an assessment performed by a social worker or a clinician that can be satisfied in an afternoon. The point of the evaluation is to determine if the person has a drug or alcohol problem that then may lead to other conditions set forth by the court. Sometimes, if the stuff is done up front, the defense attorney can arrange a more favorable deal. This is a common criminal defense tactic and can lead to a favorable outcome, depending on the case. On a misdemeanor repetition, sometimes a DWI repeat offender class will be required.          

Community Service

Community service will often be a condition of probation required by the court for all kinds of cases. Community service is generally mandatory for DWI pleas. Almost always, this is something that the judge tacks on while taking the plea. The judge in a criminal case, whether it is a county criminal court judge or a criminal district court judge, has the authority to include certain requirements. These can be varied, such as the classes described above, or community service. Depending on the kind and type of case, and the disposition of the judge, the number of hours can vary. In misdemeanor cases, the number of hours may be between twenty hours and forty hours. Some judges allow a defendant to make a donation to a charitable cause in lieu of performing community service hours. For a felony case, the number of hours will be substantially higher. The number of community service hours can be between one hundred and two hundred and fifty hours. These hours can be performed at any non-profit organization. The food bank and the animal shelter are common places to perform court-ordered community service.     

Labor Detail

Labor detail is another option available to certain people who have DWI cases in Tarrant County. This is a program run by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office. Labor detail allows people to serve out a jail sentence in a different. People report to the Sheriff’s office and spend several hours performing various tasks at County facilities. This may include washing deputy vehicles or picking up trash at County facilities. At the end of the day, the person gets to go home. More than that, they get two days credit for every day they attend. It was designed to free up space in the overcrowded jail, and to utilize energy and effort of people who have cases in a more productive way than having people serve their County jail time idly, playing basketball and sleeping while locked up in green or red jumpers. Labor detail can be a favorable result to end a DWI case that avoids the length of probation. In a DWI plea deal, there are two basic ways for a case to end. The first and most common way is probation, which is discussed at length above. Another option is jail time. Generally, jail time is not a popular option. However, the labor detail program can be a preferable option to both probation and incarceration.    

Sealing Your Records

Despite all the punishments and penalties that can happen on a DWI, beneficial law changes in the law which occurred in 2017 now offer some relief. A DWI conviction can now be sealed under certain conditions. For people who have one class B conviction for DWI, the record of the arrest and conviction can be sealed after a certain amount of time has passed. The procedure for this is called a non-disclosure, and time period for pursuing the non-disclosure is between two and five years after the case is closed. Talk to a criminal defense attorney for more information about how to non-disclose a DWI conviction.   

 

  

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