If you have been charged with a DWI in Texas, you will likely be given the opportunity to consider whether or not to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence that is less than what you might have received if your case had proceeded to trial. You should never plead guilty to driving while intoxicated without speaking to an attorney because the consequences of a conviction can be the same as they would have been if you had taken your case to trial.
Plea Bargains in DWI Cases
Many people wonder if they should accept a plea bargain or take their case to trial. The answer depends on many factors. If the state has a very strong case against you, accepting a plea bargain may be the best way to avoid jail or prison time. If there are major weaknesses in the state's case, it may be best to proceed with a trial. Your attorney can advise you about the strength of the state's case and based on the evidence that they expect would be presented if your case went to trial. The decision about whether or not to plead guilty or not is your decision.
At your very first court appearance, you may be asked whether you wish to plead guilty or not guilty. You should never plead guilty to driving while intoxicated at your first court appearance, even if you believe that you may be convicted at trial. Even if you feel that you were guilty of driving while intoxicated, a defense attorney may be able to get some of the most damaging evidence such as a breath test or blood test excluded, which can often result in a dismissal of your case or a not guilty verdict.
The prosecution is not required to offer a lesser sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, but an offer is made in most cases to save the state the time and expense of taking the case to trial. An advantage of accepting a plea deal is that in some cases, the punishment you receive may be less than what you would have received if you had proceeded with a trial before a judge or jury. A plea bargain may involve a reduction of your charges to a lesser charge, a reduced sentence, or alternative sentencing to probation or a suspended sentence if you are facing incarceration in jail or prison.
A DWI conviction can carry serious consequences and can jeopardize your career if your job requires you have any type of professional license. It is important to speak to a lawyer right away if you are concerned about losing your professional license because you have been charged with a DWI.
For example, if you are in the military and require a security clearance or if you have a medical license or commercial driver's license, these are several types of careers that could be adversely affected if you are found guilty. If you enter a guilty plea, this usually appears as a conviction on a routine background check, just the same as it would if you instead decided to take your case to trial and were found guilty by a judge or jury.
Alternative Sentencing in Texas DWIs
If you are facing a DWI charge in Texas, you may be given the opportunity to plead guilty and be sentenced to supervised probation rather than proceed with a trial. If you are sentenced to probation, you will be required to comply with all the conditions of your sentence for the duration of the probation period. Conditions of probation typically include the following:
- Regular meetings with a probation officer
- Random testing of your breath or urine for drugs and alcohol
- Attendance at NA or AA meetings
- Home visits from your probation officer
- Payment of supervision fees, court costs, and fines
Probation can be a good way to avoid serving time in jail or prison, but it is important to keep in mind that if you fail to comply with the terms of your probation, your probation can be revoked, and you can be given sanctions or be brought back to court for re-sentencing. If you decide to accept a plea bargain and be sentenced to probation, you should be absolutely prepared to follow all the conditions or risk losing your freedom.
Consequences of Accepting a Drunk Driving Plea Deal
Accepting a plea deal is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Even if you are offered a lighter sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to a DWI offense, a guilty plea still comes with many of the same consequences that you would face if your case had proceeded to trial. The right to a trial is an important right guaranteed by the Constitution. When you plead guilty, you should be absolutely certain that you wish to waive that right.
If the state has a solid case against you, agreeing to a plea bargain sometimes makes sense. However, to ensure the best outcome possible, make sure that you have discussed the evidence in your case thoroughly with a DWI attorney with the extensive experience necessary to advise you about whether or not accepting a plea deal would be in your best interests.