If you were arrested for DWI in Dallas County, this will provide information on how DWI cases proceed through the court system.
If you were released from Lew Sterrett (County Jail), you were probably given a notice to appear in approximately three weeks from the date of your arrest. This letter tells you to go to court and check the Bulletin Board to see if your case has been filed. In most Dallas County cases, the official court case is not filed within this time. You will then be instructed to reappear at the County Court to see if your case has been filed and which court your case has been referred to. There are twelve misdemeanor courts in Dallas and the cases are assigned at random.
If your name is on the Bulletin Board, it will direct you to the court where your case has been filed. You will appear there and speak with the Court Coordinator. This person is in charge of managing the court's calendar. You will be asked if you have a lawyer, are going to hire a lawyer or seek a court appointed attorney. If you seek a court appointed attorney you will fill out an application that the judge will consider whether or not you qualify for a court appointed attorney. If you do get a court appointed attorney, you will then wait until that attorney has an opportunity to meet you. This may be a long wait as they have too many clients to give full attention.
If you hire a lawyer you do not have to go to court. Your attorney can appear for you and begin the investigation of your case.
After the first appearance, most courts allow you to reset the case two more times with each setting being about a month apart. During this time your attorney should retrieve all police reports and videotapes of your arrest. They will also discuss any recommendations should you decide not to fight your case and finalize it by entering a plea bargain case.
After the first two or three passes the Court will require you to appear to reset your case. The Court also wants to know as soon as possible if you are going to fight (Jury Trial) or give up (Plea Bargain Agreement). This is to help in the management of the court's calendar.
If you set your case for trial, your first trial date will be 2-3 months later. You must appear at all trial settings of your case. On trial date you should understand that the Court has set 5-10 other cases for trial on the same day. This is to allow for people that change their minds or plea bargain offers have settled the case. Also this allows for trial where a witness cannot be present or other complications with the case. Please realize that you case may be set for trial 2-4 times and you will have to appear to determine if your case is selected. Of course your attorney must prepare for your trial on all of the Trial Dates.
If you are convicted, either after trial or plea, you will probably be placed on probation. This can change however if you have a prior criminal record, especially a DWI arrest or conviction. You will be given all forms needed for probation and report to the probation department for a probation orientation (1 hour). You then can proceed to the cashier and pay all fines and court costs or apply for a payment program to pay these costs during your probation.
In special cases, District Attorneys are allowed to offer DWI clients anobstruction of Highway alternative. This is almost as good as going to trial and winning and a 100% chance that you will not have a DWI conviction. It requires probation with identical conditions as a DWI case. If you are able to negotiate a deferred adjudication probation, that case will be dismissed upon successful completion of the probation. If you are eligible for this type of disposition, you may file suit to have your DWI expunged or erased and file another suit to have records of your Obstruction of Highway sealed to all persons except law enforcement.
Chris Hoover has have practice criminal defense in Dallas County for more than 25 years. He is familiar with the procedures, clerks, coordinators, prosecutors and judges. His expertise will prove invaluable to you in your case.