Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Law
We know the legal process can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s why we aim to be a source of help to everyone who’s been accused of a crime – not just clients. Below are some answers to the most common questions we receive at The Capetillo Law Firm.
I know I’m guilty, can we hurry up and plead Guilty?
In most situations, this is a bad approach to resolving your criminal case. Hiring an attorney that knows how to request, review, and analyze the proper documentation is a more prudent approach to getting a more favorable result for you. A lawyer that is familiar with common mistakes made by law enforcement or independent labs may be able to find errors in your case that could result in outright dismissal of your charges or help you in negotiating a more favorable plea deal. If it’s an absolute last resort that you should plead guilty, you need an attorney to properly educate you about the additional consequences of having a criminal conviction on your record.
What are the costs of a DWI conviction?
Before you consider taking any type of guilty plea for a DWI in the State of Texas, you should definitely consider the following:
- Can you obtain an occupational driver’s license (ODL)?
- The cost of obtaining an ODL
- The mandatory requirement to install an ignition interlock if you qualify for an ODL
- The cost associated with an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle
- The hassle, and sometimes embarrassment, of having an ignition interlock in your vehicle
- The Department of Public Safety (DPS) surcharges imposed upon those individuals convicted with a DWI. These costs start at $1,000/year for 3 years
- Car insurance rate hikes
- Obtaining a SR-22
- DPS license reinstatement fees
- Court costs associated with taking a guilty plea
- Fines imposed by the Court that could reach a maximum of $2,000 for a first conviction
- Court mandated DWI education courses
They took my driver’s license after I was arrested for DWI. What do I do?
If your driver’s license was confiscated, you should be provided with form “DIC-25”. This form will act as your driver’s license for up to 40 days, unless you request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing, which will extend the 40 days until a judgement is rendered from the ALR hearing.
What is an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearing and is it important?
An ALR hearing is very important for a few reasons. First, if your driver’s license has been confiscated and you do not request an ALR hearing, your license is automatically suspended after 40 days from the date of service of the DIC-25. To prevent this automatic suspension, an ALR hearing must be requested inside of 15 days upon your receipt of the DIC-25. At the ALR hearing, your lawyer will have an opportunity to save your driver’s license from being suspended by the Texas Department of Public Safety. In addition, if your lawyer properly and timely subpoenas the pertinent Officers, your lawyer will have an opportunity to cross-examine the Officer in your case. This is very important because the Officer’s testimony during the ALR is sworn and under oath testimony that can be very relevant in the criminal case against you.
If my license is suspended, how long will it be suspended?
This depends on your age and how many prior offenses you have on your record.
If you’re under the age of 21 and . . .
- Refused a breath test:
- 180 days for your first offense
- 2 years if your license has previously been suspended for refusing or failing
- 2 years if you have a previous conviction for DWI, Intoxication
- Assault, or Intoxication Manslaughter in the preceding 10 years from the date of your arrest in the current case
- Provided a specimen of breath or blood and a detectable amount of alcohol was found in the person’s system:
- 60 days if it’s the first alcohol offense
- 120 days if the person has previously been convicted for an alcohol offense while operating a motor vehicle
- 180 days if the person has previously been convicted 2+ times for an alcohol offense while operating a motor vehicle
If you’re at least 21 years of age and . . .
- Refused a breath test:
- 180 days for your first offense
- 2 years if your license has previously been suspended for refusing or failing
- 2 years if you have a previous conviction for DWI, Intoxication Assault, or Intoxication Manslaughter in the preceding 10 years from the date of your arrest in the current case
- Provided a specimen of blood or breath and the results were .08 or higher:
- 90 days for your first offense
- 1 year if you have a previous conviction for DWI, Intoxication Assault, or Intoxication Manslaughter in the preceding 10 years from the date of your arrest in the current case
Is my driver’s license suspended?
It depends. Your license is not automatically suspended because you’ve been charged with a DWI. Please call to discuss how the Capetillo Law Firm can help you prevent your license from being suspended.
It seems that the suspension periods are longer if I refuse, rather than give a blood/breath specimen. Why should I ever refuse?
This is a decision that every individual should consider if they ever plan to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. If you’re arrested and charged with an intoxication crime that involves the possibility of having your license suspended, what is more important to you – losing your driver’s license for a period of time, or having breath/blood evidence used against you in the investigation of a criminal offense? Prosecutors would much rather have a blood/breath figure in building their case against you. At the Capetillo Law Firm, we look at every possible avenue to prevent them from admitting this evidence at trial and using it to convince a jury that you were intoxicated.
There was a blood/breath specimen taken from me before/after I was arrested and the result was over a .08, am I doomed to lose at trial? Should I just plea guilty now to move on with my life?
We strongly advise our clients to not throw the towel in before collecting all possible forms of pre-trial discovery. Looking at all discovery items and weighing the likelihood of their admissibility at trial will give you a better picture of the odds at winning at trial. However, if your attorney does not know what to ask for in discovery, or how to interpret the discovery provided, valuable information about your case can be missed.
My spouse/friend/family member was just arrested, what do I do?
Your main focus should be to bond them out of jail. Please contact a reputable bonding company and make arrangements to have your loved one released from jail through them. In some instances, you may be able to post a cash bond and in other instances, you may be able to obtain a personal recognizance (PR) bond, depending on the facts and charges against your loved one. Also remember, when speaking with your loved one over a jail phone, it’s best to always assume you’re being recorded.
I've bonded out of jail, what happens next?
Each Court and each jurisdiction is different. In general, you will be given a Court date on which to appear at specific Court and at a specific time. Between your release from jail and your first Court date, use this time to retain a lawyer that you can trust will represent your best interests. Once you have retained a lawyer, you and your lawyer will appear on the date, time, and location, as directed. Upon entering the Court, have a seat and typically they will have a role call and check attendance. It is imperative to be on time and in the Courtroom when your name is called. Failure to be there when your name is called could result in your bond being revoked by the Judge and you being put back in jail and/or having additional bond restrictions imposed upon you. At this first Court appearance, your attorney is able to receive some initial discovery about your case and speak with the prosecutor about you case. In some Courts, if you have been charged with an alcohol crime, the Judge may impose an ignition interlock or other type of alcohol monitoring device as a condition of your bail.
What is an ignition interlock device?
This is a type of device that is designed to monitor the driver of a vehicle and insure that the driver does not have alcohol in their system before starting and/or while operating a motor vehicle. These devices can be very sensitive and sometimes produce results that cause suspicion. If you have an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle, it’s best to refrain from using any and all substances that contain any type of alcohol. This includes, but is not limited to, mouth wash, some over the counter medications, certain prescription medications, and any other substances that list alcohol as an ingredient.
I’m not a criminal and I haven’t been convicted of an alcohol related offense, why is it a requirement that I have an ignition interlock in my vehicle?
Some Courts are stricter than others and impose an ignition interlock or alcohol monitoring device as a condition of your bond.
What’s the process for having my record cleared? I don’t want potential future employers to know I was ever arrested
There are some various options that may be available to you depending on the outcome of your case. Whether you are found Not Guilty at trial, take a deferred adjudication, complete a pre-trial program, or get your case dismissed will determine what option are available to you. Please contact us to discuss your specific case and see if you qualify for an expungement or a non-disclosure.
What’s the difference between an expungement and a non-disclosure?
When qualified, you would rather pursue an expungement than a non-disclosure. Once an expungement has been granted, the records subject to the expunction are prohibited from being released and the person may deny the occurrence of arrest and the existence of the expunction, with one exception. The exception being when asked under oath in a criminal proceeding, the person may only state that the matter in question has been expunged.
How do I know if I have a warrant for my arrest?
Depending on the county that you believe you have the warrant, you can check online. In more rural counties, you would need to call a local law enforcement agency in that county and give them a DOB and name and ask them to check.
How much are your fees?
Our fees are set on a case by case basis. Each case is different and requires an evaluation of the facts of each to be able to accurately determine the appropriate fee. Please contact us for your FREE evaluation of your case and let us help you.
How much should I pay for a DWI attorney?
Ask the attorney how they structure their fees. Do they charge separate pre-trial fees vs trial fees? Does their trial fee cover the entire trial, regardless of how many days it goes? Do they charge per day of trial? Does their price include attending the ALR? Does their price include associated filing fees, subpoena fees, various expenses incurred with defending someone charged with DWI? Not everyone has enough cash to pay an attorney’s fees upfront. Ask your potential attorney if they accept payment plans? Do they give discounts for full payments? Do they accept credit cards?
What about attorneys that charge a “per court setting” fee?
Unless there is a specific cap on the total fee, clients need to be careful with this type of fee structure. Clients should understand that cases drag out for many reasons, some in the control of the defense attorney, and some that are not in the control of the defense attorney. Depending on the Court and the outcome you seek for your case, a DWI can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.
What factors should I consider in hiring a DWI attorney?
Attorneys vary in price similar to any other service and/or product. In some instances, you get what you pay for, as with other goods and services, and in other instances, you may be able to get a great value. The same holds true with attorneys. Some veteran attorneys have decades of experience coupled with numerous trials under their belt. These attorneys are able to charge considerably more than less experienced attorneys simply because they can boast of their vast experience. The less experienced attorney isn’t necessarily a bad option for various reasons such as, these attorneys are still out to make a name for themselves. They are able to charge a more affordable rate because they value your business and look to make you a satisfied client. Because let’s face it, if they are truly concerned with building a great reputation, they can’t do it without earning your business and making you a satisfied client. If they can explain the process, keep you informed, earn your trust, and you’re confident in their abilities, a less seasoned attorney may be a more sensible choice. Ask your potential attorney what associations they belong to, who are their mentors, and what Continuing Learning Education (CLE) courses they attend. In most instances, the younger attorneys can still do the work required to be get successful results for their clients at much less cost to their clients. As with any other decision you make use your judgment and do your homework. Select an attorney that you believe will have your best interests in mind and can prove to you they are willing to work hard for you.
Should I just hire the least expensive attorney?
In most instances, this is not the best option. If an attorney is able to charge rock bottom prices it could mean a variety of things, none of which are good for you.
The least expensive attorney could be making up the difference by handling a higher volume of cases. What does that mean for the client? If an attorney has 10 clients vs. an attorney with 100 clients, the attorney with 100 clients is just not going to be able to spend the same amount of time on each case that a lower volume attorney. Most people value being able to speak directly to their attorney and have their questions answered by their attorney. If your attorney has an extremely high volume of clients, it’s almost impossible for them to give each individual client the one-on-one time they deserve.
Another negative is that a rock bottom priced attorney is likely only going to plea your case out in one or two settings. Again, what does this mean for the client? It means that your attorney likely didn’t fully analyze the facts of your case nor research aspects of your case that could have been presented to get you a more favorable outcome, if not a dismissal.
Furthermore, if you are one of many clients, then you will likely be waiting longer periods to speak with your attorney or reset your case than necessary. There are many courtrooms inside a courthouse and attorneys do not get to pick which courts their clients are assigned. This means that if you attorney has multiple clients in multiple courtrooms, they will be bouncing from courtroom to courtroom meeting with clients and working their cases. Why is that important to you, the client? If your setting can be handles in 15 minutes, but ends up taking 2 hours due to you having to wait for your attorney, this is time you have to request off from work or be away from your daily activities. For most clients, attending court settings is inconvenient because of the time of day. Why prolong this inconvenience when it isn’t necessary?
But like most people, I just don’t have the money to hire a competent attorney. What do I do?
Find a way. Be creative. Clients that are truly concerned with their future find a way to hire an attorney to represent them and their future. They can take out loans, pawn valuables, open a credit card, asking friends/family for loans, work extra shifts/hours, cut their expenses, and/or a combination of the above. Someone with a conviction from their youth can likely be cutting their “future” legs out from under them. Young clients have their entire life ahead of them and rarely think about what the long-term consequences of a guilty plea can have on their future career opportunities, options of earning a living, finding an apartment, obtaining a driver’s license, immigration issues and traveling abroad. A few thousand dollars may see like a million dollars in your youth, but later in life, the regret of not finding that few thousand dollars can cost you considerably.
What’s the difference between a DWI and DUI?
In Texas, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges can only be given to a person under the age of 21 who has ANY detectable amount of alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle (or watercraft) in a public place. A Driving While Intoxicated charge can be given to anyone who is believed to be intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.
What does “intoxicated” mean in a legal proceeding?
Our Texas statutes have defined “intoxicated” to mean the loss of a person’s normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, any combination of the preceding, or any other substance into the body OR having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. Based on Texas’s definition of intoxication, you can be charged with DWI without even having a drop of alcohol in your body; however, alcohol is the most common substance used to charge a person with DWI.