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How to keep a DWI off your criminal record

As the holidays get into full swing, there are work parties and gatherings with family and friends. From eggnog to cocktails and wine, alcoholic beverages are a part of many of these events.

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How do you know if one more drink will put you over the legal limit? You might not feel intoxicated and you could still be over .08. To avoid a Texas DWI you should get an Uber or postpone your departure, even if you feel buzzed.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has already warned of stepped up enforcement over the holidays. If you are stopped and an officer asks you to complete field sobriety testing, politely refuse. Following any DWI arrest, immediately ask to contact a criminal defense lawyer.

First offense and license suspension

Coming into contact with the criminal justice system for the first time can feel disorienting. When will you get out of jail? How long will the process take? What will it cost?

A defense attorney will be able to answer these questions and stand up for your rights. If you do not routinely appear in Harris County court, you will not know what to bring up at a pre-trial release hearing. Without an understanding of Texas criminal law, it is virtually impossible to identify mistakes that could lead to a reduction in charges or a dismissal.

Here is another thing many people do not know, failing a blood or breath test after an arrest will trigger a parallel civil Administrative License Revocation. You only have 15 days to request a hearing to fight suspension of your driving privileges that could last anywhere from 90 days to two years.

The DIVERT program

Could a charge or conviction create a permanent black mark on your record? Yes, it is possible. For first time offenders, a pretrial program referred to as DIVERT may keep a conviction off a criminal record.

The process starts with plea, but the guilty verdict is deferred. If you complete all the requirements of a yearlong program, no conviction goes on your record. DIVERT includes random alcohol tests, an ignition interlock and alcohol treatment or counseling. Often a contract must be signed and the case is transferred to a different court. It is important to note that in Harris County, not every judge will agree to this special probation program.

Applying the law to the unique facts of your case is an art developed over many years in practice. Seeking counsel immediately from an experienced criminal defense attorney is the only way to learn the available legal options. It may also ensure you do not spend the rest of the holidays in jail.

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