The “DWI Process” can be divided into three general stages:
DWI Police Investigation & Evidence Collection, Field Sobriety Tests, Blood Tests, Breath Tests, Jail and Bond
Defense Investigation & Evidence Collection, Criminal Court Case, ALR Hearings & SOAH Court Case and License Suspensions
Terms of Probation, Expunction Eligibility, Non-Disclosure, Probation Violations, Interlock Removal and Conviction Consequences
The DWI Process begins before any arrest is made. The DWI process usually begins with a police officer or some other law enforcement agency conducting and investigation. DWI enforcement officers might be scouting for potential offenders or responding to a 911 call or doing any number of other things before they initiate a formal investigation. Typically, the formal investigation begins with an observation of driving behaviors. If the DWI investigators choose to pull you over, they will attempt to gather information from you in several different ways, including through roadside questioning, physical evidence collection, Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) and other field sobriety tests. DWI investigators need a Reasonable Suspicion to stop you on the basis of DWI suspicion, and they need Probable Cause to make an arrest.
Once the DWI investigators have concluded the investigation, they will make a determination about whether to arrest the suspect. If the officer chooses to make a DWI arrest, the officer will transport him or her to a local jail for evidence collection and booking. Bail will be set and the person will eventually be given a first court date.
After someone is arrested for a DWI, the state will charge the person with a criminal DWI offense and also attempt to suspend the person’s license through a civil Administrative License Revocation (“ALR”) process in the State Office of Administrative Hearings (“SOAH”) courts. The criminal case will be resolved in criminal courts by state prosecutors and your defense attorney. There will be a series of court dates in the county criminal courts (or district courts if the charge is a felony).
The ALR process is not automatic. Your attorney will need to request the hearing and aggressively pursue your defense in the SOAH court. Through this process, your attorney will prepare your defense against the criminal charges and address your license suspension hearing. Eventually you will receive a determination about the status of your license in the ALR process. If your license is suspended, you will want to obtain an Occupational Driver’s License (“ODL”). You will also eventually have to make a decision about whether to go to trial or to plead guilty, unless your case is dismissed. If you decide that you want a trial, your attorney will present evidence to a judge and jury who will decide whether or not to convict you of the DWI offense.
Your DWI case will result in either an acquittal, a dismissal or a conviction. If you go to trial and you are found “Not Guilty,” then you have been acquitted and you will be eligible to have all records related to the DWI arrest permanently removed from your record through a process called “Expunction.” If the case is dismissed, you may be eligible for expunction as well.
If the case results in a conviction, then you will be either put on probation for a period of months or years or confined to jail. If you are placed on probation, then you will have to abide by the terms of probation prescribed by the court. During the course of the DWI probation, the state may attempt to revoked your probation by alleging that you violated your probation. You will be entitled to a hearing on the motion to revoke your probation. If the court determines that you committed a probation violation, then the court has the authority to placed you in jail for the remainder of your sentence. You are entitled to have representation at the probation violation hearing. On the other hand, if your probation goes well, you may be entitled to have your interlock device removed early and go on non-reporting status. Also, if you are convicted, there are numerous other penalties that are not specifically outlined in the criminal laws that you should understand before pleading guilty.
Many people who are convicted of a DWI end up dealing with the DWI for years after the date of the arrest. The entire DWI Process can take years to get to complete. It could take years to get to a final disposition, then months or years of probation if you are convicted and years of surcharges and other driving-related consequences. Depending on whether you are charged with “DWI 1st,” “DWI 2nd” or “DWI 3rd or more,” the process can take different amounts of time and you will be facing a different range of consequences. A conviction for DWI 3rd or more is a felony DWI conviction, and the penalties that you face will be substantial.