DWI convictions can either result in probation or jail time. Although in Tarrant County, jail time can sometimes be served in work detail at the discretion of the judge. If you get a DWI conviction, it means one of two outcomes: either you have gone to trial and lost, or you have pled guilty. The best way to avoid a conviction is to hire an attorney who fights hard all the way to avoid a conviction. My clients often ask me what will happen if we lose at trial. This page examines how a typical probation might look in Fort Worth.
Probation is something that happens at the end of your case. When you get it, your case is over. When you receive probation, you have likely gone to court several times in the process and your attorney and the D.A. have come to a plea agreement. Now you find yourself talking to a judge, saying the word “guilty” when the judge asks you “how do you plead?” Perhaps your lawyer has cut a great deal for you, or maybe your lawyer has otherwise determined that your case should not go to trial, probation can sometimes result. DWI probation is a very specific kind of probation, with its own conditions and consequences. Generally, I love to try cases and go to trial and let the jury decide. Sometimes, I determine that there is evidence that I believe will be difficult if not impossible to overcome. Sometimes, you just can’t go to trial because some piece of evidence is overwhelmingly against my client. This can mean a video of a client performing the field sobriety tests that doesn’t look very good, and I’ve determined that it is a hurdle that we can’t get around. Sometimes it is not worth the risk of going to trial, and pleading guilty and getting probation is a strategic decision meant to minimize risk. This page discusses aspects of DWI probation and details what might happen to those who are on it.
What are Conditions of DWI Probation?
Probation means that you have been found guilty or have pled guilty, but you don’t have to go to jail as long as you complete certain requirements. These requirements are your conditions of probation, which are outlined in Section 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Conditions can be mandatory by law, or in the discretion of the judge. The basic conditions that are a part of every probation are that you:
- Don't commit any more crimes
- Stay away from bad habits or injurious habits
- Stay away from people with bad or harmful character or reputation
- Report to your probation officer and follow all the rules the judge sets forth
There are more and they are all detailed in Section 42.12. These conditions are present for all kinds of probation. There are DWI specific conditions that we will discuss below. Before granting probation, a judge must first find that probation is in the best interests of justice, the public, the defendant. If you get an 18 month or a 12 month probation term, you will have to report to your probation officer once a month. Probation costs are capped at 60 dollars per month. There are also DWI specific conditions that the judge may place on you. These will be things like taking a DWI education class, getting a drug and alcohol evaluation, having an interlock device in your vehicle, and performing some amount of community service hours. There can also be fines and court costs, and your driver’s license may be suspended as well.
Will You Go to Jail?
This sounds counter-intuitive, I know. You are thinking that you are getting probation to avoid jail time. This can be a harsh condition of DWI probation. Usually, it is only for repeat offenders. Nevertheless, in general, the court has the discretion to require up to 30 days jail time for a Misdemeanor, and up to 180 days for a Felony. If you get probation for felony DWI, you will be looking at some jail time. Often, this can be served on weekends, but that is up to the judge. The statutory rules require that you spend a minimum of 72 continuous hours of confinement in jail if you are found convicted of a second DWI. A third DWI conviction mandates that the defendant receives jail time of at least 10 days. For an intoxication assault conviction, the defendant must receive minimum jail time of 30 days as a condition of probation.
What is a Drug and Alcohol Evaluation?
The court will make you go through a drug and alcohol evaluation as a condition of DWI probation. This class is referred to as “DWI Ed” and the course must be approved as an alcohol awareness class by the State of Texas. The course is approximately 12 hours in length and discusses aspects of DWI and alcohol in general. If the evaluation indicates a need for treatment, the judge will order it. Here is an example of a Texas-approved DWI education program: Amino Education and Counseling.
Do You Need an Ignition Interlock?
The court may require that you have an ignition interlock device installed on your car as a condition. If the judge orders this as a condition of your probation, you can get an Occupational Driver’s License so you can go to and from work and take care of your household needs. An interlock device is something you have to blow into in order to start your car, and it prevents the car from starting if alcohol is detected using a breathalyzer. If alcohol is detected, your car will not start, and your probation officer will be notified and you could be in more trouble. It depends on what the amount is, but Sometimes the interlock will go off if you have just used mouthwash. Note that if this is your second DWI, you must get an interlock as a condition of your bond, and you must have it on while you are defending your case. This is also true if you give a blood or breath test that is above a 0.15 BAC.
Do You Need to Perform Community Service?
As a part of DWI probation, the court will require the defendant to perform community service. That is, unless the defendant is physically unable to do so. Generally, community service can be completed at any non-profit of the defendant's choice. The hours will vary and can be completed over time, but you can expect to do 16 hours or so each month.
What Are the Costs?
The court may require the defendant to pay any fine, if one was assessed, court costs, restitution to the victim, and payment to a crime-stoppers program. There will usually be a fine. The typical fine is $1,000 but that can be negotiated by your attorney.
What About GPS Monitoring?
A court may require GPS electronic monitoring. The court has discretion as to how long. This is rare for a DWI first or a DWI second. This is typically reserved for felony DWI probation. Felony DWI probation is much harsher to complete than misdemeanor DWI probation.