“One thing prosecutors know about me is that when I show up on the jury docket and announce ready for trial, I am never bluffing.”
It doesn’t take much to get arrested for DWI these days. You go out for dinner. You have a drink or two. You head home. Along the way you get pulled over for something people do every day without a drop to drink: speeding or not signaling. The next thing you know, you’re trying to balance on one foot while a police officer spotlights you for all the world to see.
The broad array of people I’ve represented on DWI charges (students, teachers, doctors, bankers, plumbers, construction workers, truckers, business owners–you name it, even police and other lawyers) here in the Austin area and throughout the state of Texas proves how easily anyone can end up in this situation. And there is no limit to the fear and disruption a DWI arrest can create in a client’s life. This is just as true for first-time offenders as it is for someone with multiple DWI convictions or who is facing intoxication assault or manslaughter charges.
Properly defending any drunk driving accusation begins with the administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing. The ALR is a civil hearing, completely separate from your DWI case. To avoid an automatic suspension of your license, you must request the hearing within 15 days of your arrest. The officer who arrested you must testify at the ALR on the same topics at issue in your DWI case. Often times, the ALR yields valuable information and allows me to commit the police into a particular version of events long before you come to court on the DWI charge itself.
A DWI can take several months (sometimes well over a year) to resolve, depending on which county and court your case is in. There are typically a couple of court dates at the outset of the case which I can handle without you being in court. During these settings, I gather information related to your case: police reports, videos, 911 calls, breath test records, maintenance records on the breath test machine, the arresting officer’s disciplinary file, inventory sheets from the wrecker service that towed your car, search warrants, photographs of the scene, witness statements, medical records, etc.
You and I will review all the evidence in your case, determine the strength of our position, and map out our battle plans. Several issues can be raised at a pretrial (or “suppression”) hearing to effectively challenge a DWI charge by carving out chunks of the state’s case and limiting what a jury would be allowed to hear at trial. For example:
If there are no pretrial issues in your case, and if the prosecutor has not made a settlement offer that is acceptable to you, then the case will proceed to trial. This still does not mean that your case will actually go to trial. Some of my clients’ best deals come with a jury panel waiting in the hallway. Nevertheless, we will be prepared for the trial when we go to court. One thing prosecutors know about me is that when I show up on the jury docket and announce ready for trial, I am never bluffing.
The vast majority of DWI trials center on the issue of whether or not you were intoxicated. How do you look, act, and sound on the video? No one is perfect, and every video has something for the police and prosecutors to nit-pick. In such cases, I use jury selection to eliminate biased jurors and condition the remainder to stay open to the signs of your sobriety. I usually follow with a strong opening statement, highlighting all the things you did right during your encounter with the police. Most if not all of our evidence comes from my cross-examination of the officer, the length and width of which is determined by the specific facts of your case and the officer’s testimony on direct examination by the prosecutor.
I make full use of the 5th Amendment. Because the burden of proof in a criminal case is on the prosecution, because there is little my client can add to what is seen on video, and because it is human nature (and therefore the jury’s nature) to view a defendant’s honest explanations as self-serving deceit, I rarely advise my clients to testify.