Facing a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charge in the State of Texas can be a daunting experience, and your first court appearance can be particularly nerve-racking. You may wonder what to expect and how Texas DWI laws apply in your case. Read on to learn about the Arraignment in court for a DWI and the Texas DWI court program in Harris County.
The First Court Appearance
Your first court appearance in a DWI case is a critical step in the legal process. It usually occurs shortly after the arrest and booking process. Here’s what you can expect during your first appearance:
- Arraignment: The court will formally read the charges against you and advise you of the range of punishment. The judge will then advise you of the rights that you have during the case, including the right to remain silent, right to a trial, and right to cross-examine witnesses. Then a prosecutor will read a brief summary of what the police officer who arrested you alleges happened.
The document the prosecutor reads is called a Probable Cause Affidavit (PC Affidavit for short), and the judge will then decide whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed. If the judge decides there was probable cause, then the case continues forward. If the judge decides there was no probable cause, the case is typically dismissed. In some situations, your lawyer may choose to waive formal arraignment. Your case may also land in a Harris County Criminal Court at Law where your initial appearance is waived and you do not have to show up.
- Bail or Bond: Depending on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history, the court may determine whether you can be released on bail or bond while awaiting trial. In most Harris County DWI cases for first offenders, the judge will release you on a PR Bond (personal recognizance). A charge for DWI 2nd or more could possibly have a high bond that would require paying the cash amount or paying a bail bondsman a fee to get you released from jail.
- Bond Conditions: A judge in a DWI case has the power to order you to follow certain conditions for the safety of the community. Bond conditions vary from case to case, but can include the following:
- No committing new crimes
- No using, possessing, or consuming alcohol, dangerous drugs, or controlled substances unless you have a prescription
- Installing ignition interlock device into your vehicle to monitor for alcohol
- Portable breath test device
- Ankle monitor
- Setting Dates: The court will set dates for future proceedings, including pre-trial conferences and trial dates. Your lawyer can get your appearance waived in the majority of Harris County Criminal Courts for pre-trial settings, but some courts require you to appear every time there is a court setting. If you have been charged with a felony, such as DWI 3rd or DWI with Child Passenger, your appearance for Harris County District Courts will depend on which court your case lands in.
The Texas DWI Court Program
Texas DWI charges and consequences are serious and can be life-changing, from penalties like jail time and license revocation to education/employment limitations and a negative impact on your reputation. In Texas, some counties offer special court programs for some DWI offenders, as an alternative to traditional criminal court proceedings, that could mitigate the severity of some of those consequences. These programs are designed to address the underlying issues that contribute to DWI offenses and reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses. Here is some basic information to know about DWI court programs in Texas:
- Eligibility: Not all DWI offenders are eligible for Texas DWI court programs. Aside from a willingness to participate, other eligibility criteria typically include a lack of violent or serious criminal history and a demonstrated need for intervention.
- Treatment: Participants in the DWI court program are typically required to undergo rehabilitative alcohol/drug treatment, counseling, and regular monitoring. The program aims to address the root causes of the DWI offense, such as substance abuse issues.
- Supervision/Monitoring: Participants are closely supervised by a team that may include judges, attorneys, and treatment providers. Regular court appearances are required to monitor progress and compliance.
- Program Duration: The duration of the program can vary depending on individual progress but typically is between 12 to 24 months long.
The Harris County DWI court program, Saving Ourselves By Education & Recovery (S.O.B.E.R.), “is designed to help clients who have alcohol addictions by bridging the gap between the criminal justice system and the therapeutic community.”
Benefits of the DWI Court Program
Participating in the Texas DWI court program can offer several advantages. There is a focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment to address the root cause(s) of the DWI offense. Another benefit is reduced recidivism. Studies have shown that participants in DWI court programs are less likely to re-offend. And successful completion of a Texas DWI court program can sometimes lead to reduced charges or even dismissal in some cases.
Facing a Texas DWI charge can be overwhelming. Consulting with an experienced attorney like Collin Evans of Collin Evans Law in Harris County, Texas is essential for navigating the complex legal landscape and making informed decisions about your DWI case. He will be able to help you through each of your court settings throughout the case, and help determine if you are eligible for the Texas DWI court program. Contact Collin Evans Law for a free consultation.