You met your boss for golf at the Beaumont Country Club and were a bit anxious. Why exactly had he invited you here? Were you up for the promotion? Would you have adequate small talk for four hours? How would you artfully let him beat you while still looking like a true competitor? It all worked out fine, but the mental calculations had you wiped out. By the end of 18 holes you needed to unwind with a drink. You stopped by the grill and ended up having several.
You were ready to order one more for the road, but you were expected home soon, so you settled your bill, got your clubs in the car, and started driving. You were on E. Lucas Drive when you saw the police car behind you. The lights went on and next thing you knew you were being charged with Driving While Intoxicated ("DWI").
What happens now? What do you do? Here is some basic information to help you navigate your DWI in Beaumont.
The Traffic Stop and Arrest
Your Beaumont DWI case will generally begin with an interaction with an officer from the City of Beaumont Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, or the Texas Highway Patrol.
According to the Texas Penal Code, if you are operating a motor vehicle in a public place with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, or while not having the normal use of your physical or mental faculties due to alcohol or drugs, you commit the offense of driving while intoxicated.
An officer who has reasonable suspicion that you are driving while intoxicated (lane drifting, erratic driving, illegal turns, etc.) will likely pull you over and ask you to participate in field sobriety tests. These tests typically include exercises like standing on one foot, walking a straight line, and following an object with your eyes. The officer will observe your performance on these tests, as well as your general demeanor to make an assessment as to whether there is probable cause to arrest you.
Once arrested, you will likely be asked to take a chemical blood or breath test to measure alcohol content. Under Texas law, you are deemed to have consented to such testing. You may refuse, but it will result in your driver's license being suspended (see below under ALR).
Booking and Bail
Following arrest, you are usually "booked." This is the process by which information about you and the charges against you are entered into the system. You are usually photographed, fingerprinted, and searched. After booking, in order to release you, law enforcement generally needs a guarantee of some sort that you will return for your court appearance. This can be achieved by a monetary promise (bail) or your signed acknowledgement (own recognizance). Check out the FindLaw article on Getting Out of Jail After You Have Been Arrested for more information on the bail process.
Criminal Court Proceedings
The criminal component of your Beaumont DWI involves court appearances, likely at the Jefferson County Courthouse. These generally begin with an arraignment where the charges against you are read and you enter your plea (guilty, not guilty, no contest). If you plead not guilty, you may proceed to additional pre-trial hearings and ultimately to a criminal trial. If you are convicted you can face penalties including fines, incarceration and more. The precise penalties depend on the specifics of your case. Check out this summary from the Texas Department of Transportation for more information.
Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Program
Your DWI case typically involves not only the criminal court proceedings, but also the civil administrative process associated with your license revocation. This administrative component is handled through the Texas Department of Public Safety and the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
When you are arrested and asked to submit to the chemical blood or breath test, if you fail (register at or over 0.08 BAC) or refuse the test, the officer will confiscate your license and issue you a temporary driver's permit good for 40 days. If you do nothing, your license will be suspended as of the 40th day and you may be eligible to apply for an occupational or essential needs license. If you wish to challenge the suspension, however, you may request an administrative hearing on the suspension within 15 days of your arrest. Refer to this overview by the Texas Department of Public Safety for more information.
A DWI case can be confusing and emotionally charged and a conviction can have significant consequences. It may be a good idea to retain a skilled defense attorney to assist you through the process.