This is a guide for defendants facing a Driving While Intoxicated charge in Kaufman County, Texas.
1. The Stop
The typical scenario for a DWI arrest in Kaufman is a stop by local police after midnight for an innocous traffic violation (speeding, no license plate light, failure to maintain a single lane). These are mostly “pre text” stops. That is, the police don’t really care about the speeding or turn signal. They really are hoping to arrest you for DWI. Since most local police officers are not qualified to perform field sobriety tests, a DPS trooper is usually called to the scene to assist. The usually battery of field sobriety tests are requested (HGN, One Leg Stand, Walk and Turn). Then you are off to the police station to meet the intoxilyzer. Bail will be set the next morning, usually between $1500 and $3000 for a DWI 1st. The police steal your driver’s license and you leave the jail with two yellow sheets of paper. Now what?
2. ALR hearing- 15 day deadline
A DWI case is really two cases happening at the same time. A civil case inovling your driver’s license, and a criminal case involving your freedom. First, let’s talk about your license. When you leave the jail the police give you two yellow sheets of paper. One of them, titled “Temporary Driver’s License” is now your driver’s license. Keep this in your wallet/purse. Most defendnants never bother to read the teeny tiny fine print at the bottom. If they, they would know they are facing a critical 15 day deadline to fight for the right to drive. The Temporary License is good for 40 days. However, if you (or your attorney) requests an ALR hearing (to challenge the suspension of your license) then the Temp License is good until the hearing. ALR Hearings are usually set at least 90 days out from the date of arrest. As a bonus the ALR hearing gives me the chance to cross examine the officer who arrested you (before the prosecutor gets a chance to coach him on what to say).
3. The Criminal Case
A DWI defendant will usually have his first criminal court date set between 60-180 days after his arrest. Kaufman has two courts which hear DWI cases, County Court at Law, and County Court at Law No. 2. Unlike Dallas DWI cases Kaufman defendants are expected to appear at every court date. Our judges usually allow 2 resets or “announcement” hearings. Then the court will expect you to either plea bargain or set the case for trial. If you have a favorable DWI case, or if there are legal or factual problems with the case (bad stop/dirty cop) a reduced charge may be possible (obstructing a highway or reckless driving). Outrights dismissals are very rare. Potential clients always want to know how their DWI case will end when we first meet. It’s impossible to guesstimate or guarantee any outcome during an initial consultation. If a lawyer promises he can get your Kaufman DWI dismissed, RUN. That lawyer is either lying, or not experienced in Kaufman DWI cases.
4 How to choose a lawyer for your Kaufman DWI case
The choice for most defendants comes down to- Who is the best lawyer I can afford for my Kaufman DWI? Most also weigh the decision to hire local counsel vs. a big shot Dallas DWI lawyer.
Let me recommend these questions for any defense lawyer you interview for a Kaufman DWI.
1. How many DWI jury trials have you had in Kaufman county?
2. How many DWI trials have you won in Kaufman county?
3. Are you familiar with the judges/prosecutors in Kaufman county? Kaufman is not Dallas.
In 2009, I can remember 6 not guilty verdicts on DWI cases in Kaufman county (FYI- I had 4 of them). Every lawyer who won a DWI trial in Kaufman in 2009 was a local attorney. Dallas has some great DWI lawyers, but some of the things that work in Dallas, don’t work here. For example, in Dallas most prosecutors don’t review a DWI case file until the day of trial. In Kaufman, prosecutors have much more time to prepare each case.
The trial dockets are also much smaller in Kaufman than Dallas. Whereas a Dallas court may set 6 or more cases for jury trial on the same; Kaufman courts often set 1 or 2. If you are set for trial, you are probably going to trial. Finally, cops show up here. In Dallas a case can fall apart if the cop doesn’t show up for an important hearing. In my 5 years defending cases in Kaufman I’ve never had a cop not show up for trial.