Driving While Intoxicated – What Happens After Arrest

What happens after a DWI/DUI arrest?

Being arrested for DWI is a humiliating experience. Most people are overwhelmed, angered, and confused. If you are arrested for DWI, count on having your body searched, your car searched and towed, being handcuffed, placed in a patrol car, taken to jail, fingerprinted, photographed, and quite literally treated like a criminal. You can also count on some immediate restrictions on your driving privileges.DWI Arrest

By the time a person charged with DWI makes it to our office, they are usually angry with themselves, the police, and the entire criminal justice system. And, they are not looking forward to going to court. Going to court is not pleasant, and many people plead guilty without ever consulting a lawyer just to get the experience behind them. I don’t recommend that course of action.Until you consult a lawyer who has reviewed the evidence, listened to your side of the story and explained your legal options, you cannot make an informed decision on whether to plead guilty or go to trial.

The first thing we like do is meet with you and find out about the facts leading up to your arrest and the events afterwards. Next, we try to take immediate steps to protect your driving privileges. That is because DWI cases proceed simultaneously on two separate tracks:

  1. An administrative driver’s license suspension process, based on either a failure of the blood or breath test for intoxication or a refusal to take the test.
  2. A misdemeanor or felony criminal prosecution for operating a vehicle while intoxicated that can result in a fine, jail time and additional driving sanctions.

DWI process2

Click here for details of possible administrative and criminal penalties

Except in limited circumstance, in Louisiana the police will seize your license. Louisiana law imposes an immediate administrative suspension of the driving privileges when a person is arrested for DWI. The suspension generally begins 30 days after arrest and takes effect unless an administrative hearing is requested in writing and post-marked within 30 days of your arrest. So the first thing we do is request an administrative hearing.

This hearing and suspension is completely separate from the criminal DWI charge. It is handled at the Department of Motor Vehicles before an administrative law judge, not the courthouse before a criminal judge. If you do not timely request a hearing or if we are unsuccessful at the hearing, then your driving privileges will be suspended even if you have not yet been convicted of the DWI in the criminal prosecution. How long the suspension lasts depends on the unique facts of your case. If we win the hearing, then, there is no immediate suspension of your driver’s license, but it may be suspended later if you are convicted of DWI.

The Department of Motor Vehicles will send you a notice of the date and time of the hearing. That notice also serves as a temporary driving permit that is valid for several weeks after the hearing date. If we win the administrative hearing, you will be entitled to an immediate reinstatement of your regular license. If we are unsuccessful, the suspension begins when the temporary permit expires.

The next thing we do is enroll in the appropriate court to represent you in the criminal prosecution. We will obtain police reports and any video recording of your arrest. We will be with you at all court appearances. Click here for details of how a criminal trial proceeds.

Desoto Parish Courthouse

The first appearance is the arraignment where you are formally advised of the charges and must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The important thing to remember about the arraignment is hat it’s just an initial appearance. It’s just the beginning of the formal court proceedings, not the end. We routinely advise our clients to enter a not guilty plea at the arraignment and set a date for trial. There are several reasons for this.

First, we may not have the police reports and discovery yet and we may not have had sufficient time to interview witnesses or investigate possible defenses. Or, we may have already determined it’s in your interest to plead guilty, but simply wish to buy some time for you to gather money to pay fines and court costs or to make other arrangements. After the arraignment, after the hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles, after we have obtained the entire police report any videotape, talked to any witnesses, we will sit down and review everything. Then, we will make a decision on whether or not to go to trial.

That decision will, of course, be your decision. There are a lot of things to be considered. The chances of winning at trial must be assessed against the risk of losing. We must consider the sentencing range that will apply if the trial is lost, as well as the most probable sentence the judge would impose, and the possibility of success on appeal if one becomes necessary. We will give you our best assessment of our chances of success at trial. But, the decision to plead guilty or go to trial remains your decision. I will not make it for you. The reason is very simple. I will not have to live with the consequences. You will.

A guilty plea has the same effect as losing at trial. It results in a criminal conviction. If we are successful at trial, you will be acquitted and found not guilty. In the average first offense DWI case, the sentence usually includes a jail sentence which is suspended, one to two years of supervised probation, a fine, court costs, community service, alcohol abuse screening, and mandatory driver improvement training. Usually, the court will allow fines and court costs to be paid over a period of time. There is, of course, always the possibility in an egregious or unusual case that the judge will require some time in jail.

In Louisiana anyone whose blood alcohol concentration is .15 grams percent or more must be incarcerated for at least 48 hours on a first offense and 96 hours on a second offense. The impact of DWI on your life and your ability to earn your livelihood can be enormous. Don’t be mislead into thinking that you can simply walk into court, plead guilty, pay a fine, and get it over with. DWI law just does not work that way. However, even in the worst case, I will do my best to minimize the impact of an arrest or conviction.

Get started now! Because legal problems like DWI do not solve themselves. For Confidential Consultation Call 318.227.1460Get directions to our office

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