Tips On How To Deal With A DWI Or DUI Charge In HoustonHere is information about plea bargaining, arraignment, and the different options available to you when you have to deal with a DWI or DUI charge.
At some stage, after you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), you will be required to appear in court in front of a judge when it comes to what is known as your arraignment. Arraignment means appearing in a court where the defendant will be formally charged for their crime and then requested to respond to their charge in the way of entering into a plea bargain.
What Happens At An Arraignment
At an arraignment, the defendant is asked to plead according to their charge. In general, these options include not guilty, no contest, or guilty. In some cases, a lawyer will be appointed for the defendant, and the bail amount might be set. Many of the defendants that are charged with a misdemeanor that has not yet posted bail will be released according to their own personal recognizance at their arraignment,
Having a lawyer represent you at your arraignment is usually unnecessary. At this point, you are just entering your plea, where you are able to plead that you are not guilty.
In many of states, you are able to request a Jury Trial. These are the states where you usually do not have to request a Jury Trial. It is typically assumed that you will want this type of trial unless you have expressly waived this right. You are also able to drop your request for a Jury Trial at a later stage.
If you are charged with a prior under-the-influence conviction, it is recommended to deny such convictions in order for your lawyer and yourself to challenge the validity of these convictions at a later stage.
Options On How To Handle Your Case
Once you are released from jail, it is important to evaluate your specific case objectively (with a lawyer experienced in this field). Your options include the following:
- Pleading guilty to your charge
- Entering into a plea bargain in order to try and reduce the charges such as reckless driving (“wet reckless” is the term that is used for reckless driving that has involved alcohol)
- Requesting for a trial where you appear before a judge
- Asking for a Jury Trial (which is available in the majority of states, but not all)
Should You Fight Your Charge Or Plea Bargain?
In general, the information present for fighting a DUI charge will depend on how strong or weak the evidence of the prosecution is. For example, if there is evidence present that shows your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) was high or you were at the time extremely intoxicated, then negotiating your plea deal may be the best option available to you.
In the majority of states, drivers are convicted of DUI when their BAC is .08% or higher. This doesn’t matter whether you were affected by what you drank or not. This means that if the driver has a BAC that is high (around .12% or higher) it will become much harder to win when it comes to trial. Even when a lawyer is able to raise doubts about the accuracy of the BAC measurement, it is usually not sufficient to convince a jury that the driver was actually below the limit.
The chances of avoiding a DUI charge when it goes to trial will improve with a BAC that is closer to .08%. With the BAC which is exactly .08% or just slightly above, lawyers are usually able to persuade a jury that the driver was in a margin for error for the testing procedures. Depending on your circumstances, your lawyer may even convince a jury that at the time you were driving your BAC was still under the limit, but increased at the time that you were actually tested. This is called the “rising-blood-alcohol defense”.
Evidence linked to impairment is another consideration that is of importance. Even then the prosecution does not have chemical tests that proved you at the time had prohibited the amount of either alcohol or drugs in your system, (evidence of a per se DUI), there is another DUI type which is based on impairment. This is linked to proof of the fact that you happened to be driving while you were affected by either alcohol or drugs that you ingested which could result in a DUI conviction.
Impairment evidence often arises from bad driving, slurred speech, poor FST (field sobriety test) performance, and any behavior that indicates intoxication. In some cases, the evidence that indicates impairment could be explained. For example, a driver that has failed to complete the FST perfectly may have just been uncoordinated or tired. Yet for evidence that proves intoxication such as a driver that is swerving across a road or they reek of alcohol, there is usually no explanation for this behavior.
The likelihood of winning your DUI trial will depend on a number of factors. Yet it is usually best to consult with a DUI attorney that is experienced before you make a call.
Should You Be Asking For A Jury Trial?
If you have made the decision to fight your charge and for the case to go to a trial, in most cases it is better to insist on having a Jury Trial. Your chances of winning the case will improve when there is a jury than you would if a judge has to decide your case. The exception to the general rule occurs when your actual defense is technical or fairly unusual. For instance, if you left a bar drunk and got inside your car where you then fell asleep and you did not drive, then a judge is usually more receptive to these defenses when compared to a jury.
How Does Plea Bargaining Work?
Plea bargaining involves a process whereby the criminal defendant ( or the lawyer of the defendant) and a prosecutor will come to a compromise. The defendant will enter into a no-contest or guilty plea in order to reduce the charge, jail sentence, or fine. In this case, the prosecutor racks up the conviction without the need for the case to go to a trial.
Plea bargaining typically involves the assessment of a few of the factors that we mentioned above that defendants look at before deciding whether or not to go to a trial. In general, the defendant is able to obtain a plea bargain that is better when there are a few weaknesses present in the prosecutor’s case. The bargaining power of the defendant will diminish when there is evidence that is compelling that the defendant is guilty. In general, prosecutors will be less open to negotiations when there are any aggravating factors present such as injuries or very high BAC.
About Hiring A Lawyer
Regardless of whether you have chosen to take the case to a trial or you have chosen a plea bargain, it is always a better idea to get a lawyer on your side. If you are not able to pay for a lawyer, at the arraignment you can request that the judge appoints an attorney for you. In this case, the judge might ask you to complete a “financial disclosure” form where you will then be referred to a public defender. If you reside in a more rural area, the judge might appoint one of the private defense attorneys for you.
If you are dealing with a DUI or DWI in Houston, feel free to give us a call or contact Butler Law Firm to inquire about a FREE case consultation and speaking with a Houston DWI attorney!