1) NOT TAKING THE MATTER SERIOUSLY
Sometimes people do not take a first offense DWI seriously because it is "only a misdemeanor." People think DWI's are given routinely, often neglecting the importance of handling the matter with care. This is not a very wise assumption to make. A DWI conviction will follow you the rest of your life. Do not plead "Guilty" without a very thorough understanding of the facts involved and any potential defenses you may have. The potential range of punishment for DWI’s is perhaps the most severe of all misdemeanor criminal offenses. Jail time, probation, license suspensions, and possible DPS surcharge fees, are all very real possibilities with any DWI arrest. Additionally, each subsequent DWI will be enhanced to a more serious degree with each successive conviction.
2) REPRESENTING YOURSELF
Many people either try to represent themselves with their DWI Case, or they wait too long to hire an attorney. One should never choose self-representation in any criminal case, especially in a DWI. It has often been said that "an attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client." Do not make this same mistake. The ramifications of a DWI conviction are simply too severe. You should also not wait too long to hire an attorney. If you hire an attorney, it is wise to give them sufficient time to mount an effective defense.
3) HIRING ATTORNEY BASED ON FEE ALONE
There are many "so-called" DWI defense attorneys advertising their services at incredibly cheap rates. Instead of hiring these attorneys, it is likely better to just go with mistake #9 and save your money. The reality is that the penalties for being convicted of a DWI are incredibly steep. It is impossible, therefore, to do an adequate job with representation without a reasonable fee. Attorneys advertising incredibly cheap rates usually cut client-service in exchange for a lower fee amount. As it is with most things in life, you will get what you pay for. Try to search for an attorney that will work with you and who will arrange an appropriate financing plan that will be suited for your specific needs.
4) NOT HIRING AN EXPERIENCED DWI DEFENSE ATTORNEY
There are many attorneys out there who gladly accept a fee to represent you with your DWI case if you are willing to pay. However, just because someone attended law school does not mean they are qualified to handle any particular matter. This is perhaps the most true in the area of DWI Defense. It is a very specific area of the law. Therefore, hire someone that has taken the time to study the specific nuances of DWI Defense. It is important to have someone who has specialized their practice in DWI Defense, and can help navigate you through the various procedural, evidentiary, constitutional, and sentencing issues specific to Texas law. DWI Defense is incredibly complex, and a generalist cannot be everything to everybody. Knowing how to defend a someone accused of DWI involves considerable preparation, familiarity with the law, and knowing what motions to file and when. An attorney that has a specific focus on DWI Defense will be able to assist you in the most effective manner possible.
5) BELIEVING A .08 CHEMICAL TEST (OR HIGHER) CANNOT BE WON
There are a multitude of ways in which a chemical test can be attacked in court. Often certain medical conditions can lead to a false-positive result, such as GERD. If the chemical test is somewhere around the .08 BAC level, this result can possibly be attacked by arguing that the driver may have been below the legal limit "at the time of driving." A "retrograde extrapolation" could be performed to calculate that the BAC may have been under a .08 before the test was administered. Also, the traffic stop itself could possibly be attacked and ruled inadmissible on techical legal grounds. There are a variety of approaches with which to approach any particular DWI Defense case, even if a chemical specimen is obtained over the .08 BAC level.
6) IGNORING COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES
Often people do not properly consider the collateral consequences of a DWI conviction, such as possible license suspensions, surcharge fees, and increases in vehicle insurance rates. The ramifications for those holding a Commercial Driving License (CDL) are perhaps the most severe, and in some scenarios the CDL holder will lose their ability to drive for extended periods of time, and possibly even for life. People often do not realize that DPS issues surcharge fees where those convicted of a DWI are forced to pay $1,000/per year to retain their ability to drive. If you receive a probated sentence following a DWI conviction, the terms and conditions of probation usually are quite extensive. Not only do you have to report to a probation officer and pay monthly probation fees, you likely will have to perform community service and attend an Alcohol Education Program.
7) NOT SCHEDULING AN "ALR" HEARING
Many people (and attorneys) do not schedule the Administrative License Revocation Hearing ("ALR") because they think it's not worthwhile to do so. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the "ALR" hearing is requested and the arresting officer is properly subpoenaed to appear and does not, then the license suspension will be dismissed. In situations where the officer does appear, the "ALR" hearing provides the attorney with an excellent opportunity to "lock-in" testimony. Officers have been known to suddenly "remember" pertinent details of an arrest when testifying at trial. If the officer is properly cross-examined at the "ALR" hearing, they will have very minimal latitude for their memory suddenly refreshing in a contradictory manner at trial.
8) DRIVING WITH SUSPENDED LICENSE
Many people simply disregard the license suspension that occurs following a DWI arrest. This can be a very costly mistake. Not only will this likely result in an additional Class B misdemeanor "Driving While License Invalid" charge and another trip to jail, it could also result in an additional license suspension and an increased surcharge fee from DPS. Obtaining an occupational license is something that should always be considered when a driving license is suspended.
9) TAKING THE FIRST PLEA OFFER
The criminal court system often works very slowly. Many people grow tired of waiting and sometimes agree to plea to a DWI conviction "just to get it over with." This is usually not a very wise decision. Give your attorney time to develop an effective defense. Often a DWI case may get dismissed when the attorney is preparing to conduct a voir dire at a jury trial. Simply taking the first offer without a complete exploration of the facts is not advisable. Many things can go wrong in a DWI investigation. Hire a trained and experienced DWI Defense attorney and let them mount the best defense possible.
10) FAILING TO APPEAR IN COURT
Many people do not realize the seriousness of a DWI arrest once they are released from jail. Often the only experience people have prior to the arrest is in dealing with routine traffic violations. In these situations, people often simply just mail in the traffic ticket fee to avoid having to attend court. Simply put, a DWI case is NOT this easy. You will have to appear in court in the county where you were arrested. Usually this involves attending various court settings, hearings, and possibly even a jury trial. Do yourself a favor. Take the matter seriously and ALWAYS show up for court when you are required to appear! To read more about the criminal case process in Texas, please click here.