At What Point In A DWI Case Will I Have to Enter A Plea Of Guilty Or Not Guilty?
For most people who are out of jail on bond, the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to a DWI charge may not happen for many months following the arrest. This may be different for people who are in custody and are not able to bond out of jail, they may be given an opportunity to plead guilty and resolve their case within a few days following their arrest. If your objective is to try to beat the case and prevent a conviction for driving while intoxicated, your defense attorney is going to demand a large amount of evidence from the prosecution. That evidence will take a long time to obtain. There was recently an article in the Austin American Statesman that said that the DWI video backlogs are running 8 to 9 months.
What that means is that if I am representing somebody for driving while intoxicated, I can expect it to take close to a year before I actually receive the video. The prosecution has recently hired some new paralegals and assistants to help them wade through this backlog, and I have noticed them getting a little bit better, but it can still be 6 months before I see a DWI video from somebody’s arrest. In Travis County, the judges will not make you enter a plea if you have not received the standard evidence including the in-car video, the body cam video, and the results of the blood test. The blood test results can take many months, or in some cases over a year to obtain. The Austin Police Department has their own private lab and they can get blood results a lot quicker than some of the smaller police agencies surrounding the city of Austin who have to send their blood test results to the state DPS lab.
I’ve seen many instances where it takes over a year to obtain the DPS blood test results. Occasionally, it may be in the defendant’s best interest to go forward with the trial without those results, but we are usually blocked from doing that here in Travis County because the prosecutors won’t file a criminal complaint until they get those blood test results. The only time they generally waive that is if you want to plead guilty and just accept the charge and the conviction without having the pleasure of knowing what those results were. We would never advise that if we were trying to keep you from getting a DWI conviction, which is our goal the majority of the time when you hire us to represent you on a DWI.
The situation may change if the person’s criminal history is longer or if it’s their first DWI or if it’s their 3rd DWI and it looks like they are going to prison. We do plea bargain negotiations for a misdemeanor that may change the calculus somewhat, but as a general rule, we would want to see all the evidence there is before making a decision to plead guilty or not guilty. The judges will not demand that you enter a plea without having that evidence because if the evidence turned out to be exculpatory there could be grounds for appeal, and judges in the criminal justice system don’t want to get their rulings overturned on appeal. They generally will not require you to enter a plea until you have had an opportunity to obtain and review all the evidence in the case.
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