For many people, an arrest for driving while intoxicated (DWI) is their first real experience with the criminal court system in Texas. The court process after a DWI can be confusing and making a mistake can lead to harsh penalties. An experienced Odessa DWI defense lawyer will help you navigate the courts and fight to keep your driver's license and to stay out of jail.
After a Texas DWI Arrest in Ector County
After a DWI arrest in Ector County, your first court appearance is generally the “arraignment.” The arraignment is where the court reads the formal criminal charges against you, and you will have the chance to respond guilty or not guilty. You should always plead not guilty. Notice of the arraignment court date could come at the time of the arrest or later through the mail. Unless you have retained a lawyer and the lawyer has filed a "Waiver of Arraignment" your attendance is mandatory at the arraignment hearing.
Immediately after your arrest is the time to contact a DWI defense lawyer. The sooner you call a lawyer the better because your lawyer can begin gathering evidence and testimony in your case. You also have a limited time to challenge your administrative license suspension (a separate process from the criminal court DWI). You haveto request an administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing within 15 days of the arrest.
Ector County Courthouse
Most DWI cases in Ector County are handled in the County Court at Law or County Court at Law #2, located on the second floor of the Ector County Courthouse in Odessa, Texas. Felony DWI cases are generally handled in one of the four District Courts on the third floor of the courthouse. There is metered and 2-hour parking around the courthouse.
Ector County Courthouse
300 N Grant Ave
Odessa, TX 79761
Showing up to Court for Your DWI in Ector County
For your court appearance, take the time to make sure you get there early and appear professional.
There may be unforeseen delays (like a traffic accident or long line to get through building security). Getting there early can also give you time to find the right courtroom and get settled before you have to appear before the judge.
Courtrooms are formal places and judges like to stick with tradition. You should plan to dress conservatively and as professional as possible. This means slacks and a button-up or nice dress shirt, with a belt and tucked in shirt, and dress shoes for men. Women should wear professional or business casual attire. For everyone, it may be a good idea to cover up any visible tattoos or facial piercings.
Did You Miss Your DWI Court Date?
If you miss your court date because of an emergency, could not get a ride, or simply forgot about the hearing, you should take action immediately. If you know in advance you will not be able to make the court date, contact the court to request a date change.
If you missed your court date, the court may have issued a bench warrant for your arrest. You may not think that the police will hunt you down for a DWI hearing but a traffic stop or even a traffic ticket could lead to getting thrown in jail for a missed court appearance.
Contacting your lawyer is generally the best way to handle a missed court appearance. Your lawyer can go to the court and clear up the missed court date and work to get the bench warrant removed. If you go to the court to deal with a bench warrant, it is possible that you may be arrested first before you have a chance to clear the warrant.
How to Plead During Arraignment
During the arraignment, you should always plead not guilty to the charges against you. If, however, you decide to plead guilty, then the court may continue to sentencing. Criminal sentencing penalties in a first-time misdemeanor DWI case may include:
- 3 to 180 days in jail;
- Suspended license for 90 days to 1 year;
- Fine of up to $2,000;
- Alcohol Education Program; and/or
If you plead not guilty, your case will be set off to a later date for a pretrial hearing. Following your pretrial hearing, the case is typically set for trial. Before trial, your attorney may negotiate with the prosecutor on a plea deal. You may decide a plea agreement is in your best interest to save time, avoid the harshest penalties, and just put the DWI behind you.
If you want to challenge the traffic stop, arrest, or chemical test evidence, then your attorney can build a strong defense to fight the DWI and get the case dismissed, charges dropped, or get a not guilty verdict from the jury.
Ector County DWI Defense Lawyer
An experienced criminal defense attorney understands how to build a strong defense that gives you the best shot at a favorable outcome. If you've been charged with drunk driving or DWI in Odessa, Texas, the Law Office of E. Jason Leach, PLLC is here to fight for you.
E. Jason Leach is a Board Certified criminal defense attorney that has dedicated his law practice to defending the accused. To set up a free consultation, contact the Law Office of E. Jason Leach today at (432) 552-7000.