You might want to contact our DWI defense attorney in Fort Worth after your arraignment, which is when you face formal charges for a criminal offense and will need to plead either not guilty or guilty. You have several options for handling the charge, and advice from a knowledgeable attorney will be helpful.
An Overview of an Arraignment
At the arraignment, the judge will set bail based on several factors, including your ties to the community and the severity of the offense. In misdemeanor offenses, defendants are generally released without paying bail, also called releasing the defendant on his or her own recognizance. You likely do not need legal representation at an arraignment because you can simply plead ‘not guilty.’ Later, you can change your plea to no contest, formally called ‘nolo contendere,’ or guilty. At this stage, you also have the right to request and receive a jury trial. Generally, you need to specifically waive your right to a jury trial, or the courts proceed accordingly. Again, if you change your mind later, you can agree to a plea. The prosecution might charge with prior DWI offenses. Deny these charges so that you can question their validity in the future.
Options upon Release
Once you are released from custody, you should sit down with a seasoned Fort Worth DWI defense attorney and examine your case. You have the following options:
- Entering a guilty plea as charged
- Working out a plea agreement to a lesser charge, possibly reckless driving or a wet reckless, which means alcohol-involved reckless driving
- Requesting a trial in front of a judge or
- Pursuing your right to a jury trial.
An Overview of Plea Agreements
A plea agreement means that your attorney negotiates with the prosecution to work out a deal in your case. You will plead guilty to a reduced offense, time in custody or fines. The prosecution scores a win without going to trial. However, since drunk driving laws have been enforced more thoroughly and mandatory minimum BAC levels for convictions have dropped, plea agreements are not as favorable as they were in years past. Even in cases that were previously considered borderline – those ranging from 0.08 to 0.12 percent – the prosecution might easily win. In some states, legislation might prohibit plea bargains to an offense that does not involve alcohol.
Deciding Between a Plea Agreement or a Trial
Your lawyer will examine your case and the related evidence to determine the likelihood that a jury will find you guilty. If he or she believes that you will be found guilty, your attorney will recommend that you negotiate a plea agreement. This is especially true if your blood-alcohol-content level registered more than 0.12 percent. The maximum limit in every state is 0.08 percent, even if you did not feel impaired.
Your attorney will challenge the validity of the breath or blood tests and the field sobriety tests so that the jury discredits the official BAC level, or at least believes that it was under 0.08 percent. If your BAC level ranges from 0.08 to 0.11 percent, you have a better chance of winning a trial. However, your defense team will need to raise doubt in the jury’s minds regarding the accuracy of the tests. This can prove challenging. Even so, your attorney will look for credible witnesses who can testify to your sobriety at the time of your arrest. These individuals were either with you in the vehicle or right before you drove.
When your BAC level registers under 0.08 percent, the prosecution will have a more difficult time proving that you were impaired. Therefore, you have a higher likelihood of beating the charge. Even so, the prosecution might try to claim that you were actually driving with a higher BAC, especially if you registered near the legal limit.
The Value of Cross Examinations
Your defense lawyer will conduct a thorough cross-examination of opposing counsel’s expert witnesses in order to discredit their claim of a BAC level of more than 0.08 percent. Even so, the data for beating DUI charges is not in your favor. However, the lower that your BAC was, the higher the probability that you will be found not guilty and the more favorable the prosecutor will be when offering a plea deal.
Decisions about a Jury Trial
If you are trying to decide between a trial before a judge and a trial before a jury, you will likely stand a better chance in front of a jury. However, in technical cases that involve subtle nuances of the law, a trial before a judge might be a better choice.
Call (877) 208-3382 to Speak with Our DWI Defense Attorney in Fort Worth
Our Fort Worth DWI defense attorney at the Law Office of Bryan P. Hoeller can provide you with counsel regarding your legal options, so contact us today.