Often a person who is arrested for DWI has no previous experience with the criminal justice system and is unsure about what steps to take next. To discuss your circumstances and ensure your rights are protected, contact an experienced Texas DWI attorney as soon as you have bonded out of jail. Your arraignment and trial experiences will often depend on your particular case, as well as the jurisdiction of the arrest.
The general process during an arraignment and trial for DWI includes the following:
Shortly after a DWI arrest, an arraignment will take place in front of the judge, along with State’s attorneys on the opposing side. Because the arraignment will be your first formal court hearing on the DWI charge(s), it is best to hire an attorney beforehand. Anything you say during the arraignment is on the record and can be used against you at trial. An experienced attorney can handle this process and be your spokesperson. During the arraignment, you will enter a plea in your case. If you have not obtained an attorney by your arraignment date, you can request additional time to do so.
Your attorney will request everything in the State’s file, such as reports, videos, statements, and other relevant records. These have great evidentiary value and will help your attorneys build a defense. The judge may set some conditions of your release at arraignment, such as requiring an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. This depends on the circumstances of your case, but also the jurisdiction.
The judge will also schedule any necessary pre-trial court dates. The number of dates will depend on the severity of the charges, and the particular facts in your case. For felony DWI cases, there might be a preliminary hearing. There may also be court dates for pre-trial motions your attorney has filed. For example, there could be motions to suppress certain evidence gathered unconstitutionally. Throughout the pre-trial stages, there is frequently plea bargain negotiation between defense attorneys and state’s attorneys.
The trial process begins with jury selection, unless you have waived your right to a jury trial. The state presents their case first, as they have the burden of proving all elements of a DWI offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The State puts forward their case using records like lab reports, video and/or audio recordings, and witnesses who the defendant has a right to cross examine.
As a defendant, you also have the right to subpoena witnesses to testify during your case. You are not required to testify at trial, and an experienced DWI attorney can provide guidance on whether testifying is in your best interests. Once your defense attorneys rest their case and closing arguments are made, the jury goes out to deliberate. If you are found guilty, the judge will determine a punishment during a sentencing hearing.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for DWI, the Law Office of Andrew Williams can help. Call 281-358-9111 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Our firm serves clients throughout Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, and San Jacinto County.
About the Author: Andrew Williams I am a criminal defense lawyer with over 20 years experience defending people accused of wrongdoing. I am board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Only ten percent of attorneys in Texas are board certified in their respective field. I practice criminal law exclusively in both state and federal court including appeals of criminal cases.