Articles Posted in Process in Texas DWI Cases

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I often get asked, "what will happen on our first court setting / appearance" on a Collin County DWI?

The answer is, "not much."  The first court appearance is part of what we term the information processing period.  It is simply a first chance for us to begin gathering the discovery in your case.  Start getting the police reports, videos, any pictures the State may have.  It is also our first opportunity to talk to the prosecutors about the case, and get a feel from them of how hard they are pushing on the case.  We also (assuming we have not yet), enter our name as attorney of record.  This informs the court and the State that they may not talk to you without us being present.

In most cases, you will simply check in with the bailiff proving you haven’t fled the country, and are taking care of your case.  We have most of our clients in and out within an hour.  Your case will then be reset for about a month. 

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Bail

If you are reading this, you have probably already posted a bond (bail) to get out of jail. You may have either posted a Cash Bond (where you put up the entire amount), or a bail bond through a bondsman. In the case of a cash bond, at the disposition of your case, you are entitled to that money back (minus a small percentage to the court clerk). With a bail bond, any amount you paid to the bondsman will be retained by that bondsman. It is their "fee" for putting up the rest of the money for you.

If you bonded out of a city jail (i.e. Frisco, Plano, McKinney, Richardson, Denton), you will probably have to go to the County Jail to get processed in. You usually need to do this within 10 days of your release. If you were taken directly to the County Jail (McKinney for Collin County, Lew Sterrit for Dallas County, or Denton for Denton County), you would not need to go back to check yourself in.

Your bail bond is your promise to reappear for all court hearings. The point of the bond is to set a price that will ensure you show back up, and don’t flee to Mexico. With most DWI cases, this is never a problem, and as long as you show up as scheduled, everything is fine.

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Filing of the DWI Criminal Case

Once the police believe that their investigation is complete, they will send their arrest report, and evidence in the case to the District Attorney of the county in which they made the arrest. This usually consists of their arrest report, video of the roadside and intoxilyzer room, and breath or blood test.

At this point, an attorney from the district attorney’s office will review the report. In general, it is just a VERY cursory review of the report. Over 99% of the time, the DA will accept the case for prosecution. (This is the process for a misdemeanor. In a felony case, a grand jury must review the case before presenting an indictment.)

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Announcements, Plea Settings, and Pre-Trial Dates

Depending on the court, there will be 3, 4, or more announcements, plea settings, or pre-trial dates. In general, these are all the same thing, despite the different names.

No matter what they are called, these announcements are simply court settings, where I will have the opportunity to visit with the prosecutor and learn more about your case. I will speak with the District Attorney handling your case, get a look at a police report. I will also be able to drop off a video to get a copy of the video of your arrest and/or breath test.

Almost always, it will be me handling these court settings. Occasionally, though, I will have a conflict where I cannot attend, I may have another attorney cover the setting. Depending on the county and and the judge, you may or may not have to attend these settings. In general, you do nothing at these hearings except to show up and prove you haven’t fled the country.

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Video Review Session

This is not an "official" part of the DWI court process, but an extremely important step nonetheless. With all of my DWI cases, I will hold a video review session. During your video review session, we will look at the police report from you case, and review any video evidence from your case. I will show you the good, the bad, and the ugly. After we go through the video step by step, I will give you my opinion on what I think your chances are if we were to go to trial. It will then be up to you to decide if you want to plea not guilty and have a trial, or to plea guilty and accept the state’s plea bargain offer.

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Pre-Trial Hearings

If we set your case for trial, we will usually have to attend a pre-trial hearing. This is a chance for me to file any pre-trial motions on your behalf, and help the judge to determine how long your trial is going to take. The judge holds these hearings to speed up the trials, and to determine the order and scheduling of the cases.

Just because your case is set for trial, does not guarantee that your trial will held on that day. Most judges set many cases for trial on the same day, expecting some of them to fall through. Different cases have different priorities of which cases go first. For example, if someone is in jail waiting for their trial, their trial has priority over someone who is not in jail. Additionally, Domestic Violence cases have priority over others. After that, older cases get to go before newer cases. But in the end, it is up to the judge in the court to decide which case goes first and on what day.

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Trial

If you have decided to plea "not guilty," you will have a trial for the finder of fact to determine whether or not you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The finder of fact with either be a jury or a judge. In general, almost all of my trials are held before a jury.

The jury trial will start with vior dire. This is jury selection. It is the attorney’s opportunity to talk with the potential juries about their thoughts and beliefs. In a misdemeanor DWI cases, the judge brings in about 25 people. From them, 6 jurors will be selected to sit on your case.

After opening statements, the state will put on their case. They may call as many witnesses as they wish, but in general will only have a few. Any officers on the scene, anyone working the breath test machine, any possible witnesses to your driving, and possibly the "Technical Supervisor" of the breath test machine.

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Punishment Phase

If you are found guilty by a judge or a jury, the case will proceed on to a punishment phase. During this phase, the state may bring up any prior bad acts or history. Before the trial begins, we must decide if it will be the judge or the jury to assess punishment. Each case is different, and this is something we will discuss before your trial begins. Most people have the judge assess punishment in their case, as they see many of these cases, and understand the severity (or non-severity) of the cases.

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Expunction / Clearing Your Record

If you are found not guilty by a judge or a jury, the case will be over. However, there is still a record of your trial, arrest, and charge. You will eligible for an expunction of your record, however this does not happen automatically. If you are found not guilty, I will explain this process to you to keep your record clean!