These are our suggestions (and legal advice) for getting through this...
1. FOLLOW BOND CONDITIONS.
Q: What is a bond?
A: A bond is the paperwork that allows the sheriffs to release you from jail. It may be a “personal bond” or a “surety bond” (used by bail bondsmen). Either one could have bond conditions.
Q: What bond conditions are you talking about?
A: In addition to going to court when required, judges occasionally add conditions to the bond – such as the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) or getting an alcohol and drug evaluation (CES). Make sure that you have read and understand all the paperwork you were given when you were released from jail. If you have a question about something, call us at 512-472-1113.
Q: How do the judges determine whether to add conditions to a bond?
A: Judges usually add conditions to a bond if you have been arrested before or if the allegations surrounding the arrest (which they can see from the probable cause affidavit) are unusually dangerous. A high blood alcohol content, collision, or exceptionally bad driving will usually cause the judge to include bond conditions.
Q: Do I have to pay for the personal bond?
A: Yes. The amount will be written on the little yellow “coupon” that is attached to the bond paperwork. You can make the payment online here.
Q: The judge ordered me to get an Ignition Interlock Device (IID). What is that like?
A: Here is a short video I made about what it’s like to have an IID in your vehicle. Here is a coupon for free installation from Smart Start.
Q: What happens if I don’t follow my bond conditions?
A: Pretrial Services will notify the judge of your non-compliance. The judge can raise/revoke your bond and issue a warrant for your arrest.
Q: Can an attorney get the judge to change my bond conditions?
A: Sometimes. However, the judge is unlikely to remove any alcohol monitoring requirements without a really good reason.
Q: I was ordered to get an IID. What if I don’t have a car?
A: The judge will likely require you to get a portable alcohol monitor (which must be blown into 4 times a day – and is therefore harder to use than the IID). There are situations where the judge may remove an alcohol monitoring requirement after 3-6 months (if there have been no violations). Your attorney will have to ask the judge to agree to the removal before you can stop using the device.
2. REPLACE YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE.
Q: What are you talking about? The police took my driver’s license. How can I get another one?
A: The police are required to take your driver’s license if you are arrested for DWI (and refuse or fail a breath/blood test). However, if there are no other issues with your license, you can go to DPS and get another one (until any suspension from the DWI kicks in). Just tell DPS that you lost your license – which you did… to that police officer. Here is a video I made about replacing your driver’s license in Austin.
Q: Won’t DPS know that I was charged with a DWI. Will I get arrested for trying to get another one?
A: DPS won’t know or care that you were charged with DWI. They should happily process your request for a new license (as long as it is not suspended for some other reason). They will give you a temporary driver’s license on the spot and mail you the hard copy in a couple of weeks. No, they will not arrest you.
Q: That sounds a little sketchy…
A: It isn’t. Look at it this way – having possession of your actual driver’s license is not proof that you are eligible to legally drive. Your eligibility is determined by DPS and your status is recorded in the DPS database. You could drive around with ten physical drivers’ licenses in your pocket, but if the DPS computer says you are not eligible to drive, the police can arrest you for driving on a suspended license.
Q: But if having my license does not affect my eligibility to drive, why should I get another one? Won’t the police or DPS give me back my license when this is over?
A: No one will ever give you back the driver’s license that was taken from you when you were arrested. At the end of any suspension, DPS will tell you to go get another copy of your driver’s license, so you might as well get another one right away. Drivers’ licenses are used all the time for everyday stuff, and it can be very inconvenient not to have a physical copy in your possession.
Q: Does getting a new physical copy of my driver’s license mean that it won’t be suspended?
A: No. Your driving privilege can be suspended even if you possess a physical copy of your driver’s license.
Q: Can I just order a new driver’s license online?
A: You may be able to order a replacement license online if you have your 16 to 20-digit audit number (which can only be found on your actual license). However, most people don’t have their audit number because the police took their driver’s license after the arrest. Maybe you have a picture of your license with the audit number visible? If you don’t, you will have to go to DPS in person. Here is the website to find the nearest DPS office to you. I recommend that you do this within two weeks of being arrested.
Q: Won’t I have to wait in line a long time?
A: Maybe, but some DPS locations (like the North Lamar location in Austin) have a “get in line online” feature. That can help to speed up the process.
3. DON’T GET ARRESTED WHILE THIS CASE IS PENDING.
Q: That’s ridiculous. Why would you even say that to me?
A: Unfortunately, I’ve had many clients get re-arrested while their first case is pending. I think the stress of getting arrested causes some people to seek relief in alcohol – which directly affects the judgment center of the brain. All I am saying is that you probably didn’t expect to get arrested the first time either, right? Be super careful while this case is pending.
Q: Why? What happens if I get arrested again?
A: If you are arrested again while your case is pending the judge and prosecutor will think that you are a safety risk to the people of Austin. The judge will add every condition to your bond that they can think of – including an alcohol-detecting ankle monitor and an IID. Yes, both of them! You may even have to spend 3-7 days in jail before the judge will release you. Any probation that you ultimately receive would be severe, expensive, and include long-term counseling and continued alcohol monitoring.
Q: I won’t get arrested again, I promise.
4. COMPLETE THE DWI CLASSES AS SOON AS POSSIBLE & LOOK FOR OUR ACTIONPLAN EMAILS.
Q: But I was only arrested – I haven’t been convicted yet. Why do you recommend that I take classes?
A: The prosecutors usually give you credit for taking the classes in advance. It shows that you are taking the case seriously. Almost every possible outcome requires that you take these classes, so you might as well get some credit for taking them quickly, right?
Q: What is the D.W.I.E. class?
A: The 12-hour D.W.I.E. class is required for nearly every first time DWI arrest. The class is taught over three days for four hours a day, but each class provider has a different schedule of when the class is offered. The class is not allowed to be taught in a single day – three days is the minimum required by the State.
Q: What is the D.W.I.E. class like?
A: The D.W.I.E. class curriculum was designed by the State of Texas. The class is like a group counseling session combined with 8th-grade health class. Nobody wants to take the class, but the majority of my clients end up saying that it wasn’t that bad and that they actually learned something. While the curriculum could be improved (the videos and Powerpoint presentation are outdated), I think the class is very effective in creating an environment where people can self-reflect on their relationship with alcohol. Here’s a short video about the 12 hour D.W.I.E. class.
Q: How do you know what the D.W.I.E. class is like?
A: I used to teach the class! I don’t have time to do it anymore, though.
Q: Where can I take the D.W.I.E. class?
A: Here is a map of all the companies offering DWIE classes in Travis County.
Q: What is the MADD Victim Impact Panel class?
A: The MADD Victim Impact Panel is a 2 hour class. It is given at the courthouse on the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Wednesdays of every month. It costs $25. Here is a link to the schedule and more information. Here’s a short video about taking the class.
UPDATE: The MADD class is now available online. Here is an FAQ about how to do it.
Q: What are ActionPlan emails?
A: We developed an email system that keeps track of what we’ve asked you to do. We update it with new tasks as they become necessary. Look for those emails and click on the link to confirm that you’ve seen the information.
5. COLLECT LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION, AWARDS, ETC.
Q: Who should I ask to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf?
A: One or two letters from the most accomplished people that you know would be helpful. The person can be a current or former manager, co-worker, teacher, or anyone that has known you for a substantial period of time. Ideally, the letters would be written on letterhead and/or in a business format. Sometimes it is easier to get people to write the letter in an e-mail, and that will be fine.
Q: I don’t want to tell anyone about my arrest.
A: You can tell the person writing the letter for you that you are looking for a character reference (for a job or education opportunity). The letter does not have to mention the arrest.
Q: What should the letter say?
A: The letter should talk about your good qualities – honesty, integrity, reliability, hardships you’ve overcome, charity, etc. The more heartfelt and sincere the letter, the better it is for our purposes. Two to four paragraphs is a good length (though it can be longer if necessary).
Q: What do these letters accomplish?
A: A good letter can make a difference in some cases. Letters of recommendation are almost always worth the effort it takes to get them.
Q: Can a family member write a letter?
A: As a last resort, yes. Letters from family members are generally not given much credibility by the prosecutors. However, I’ve had some letters from family members over the years that were so powerful that they were persuasive.
Q: Who should the letters be made out to?
A: The letters can be addressed to “To Whom It May Concern,” or if the letter specifically addresses the arrest, “To: Travis County Attorney.”
Q: What do I do with the letter(s) once I have them?
A: E-mail our office a legible copy/picture. We do not need the original.
Q: What type of awards are you talking about?
A: Diplomas. Training certifications. Employee of the month. Highest score on Grand Theft Auto (just kidding).
6.PUT TOGETHER AN INFORMATION PACKET ABOUT YOUR JOB (INCLUDING YOUR RESUME).
Q: How? Why?
A: The prosecutors will be interested in what you do for a living. Any documentation that describes your responsibilities will be useful.
Q: What if my job is not very impressive? I’m not very proud of it.
A: You should take this opportunity to make steps towards a positive career change. The good thing about a pending court case is that there is enough time for you to accomplish big things while the case is pending.
7. CONSIDER PRIVATE COUNSELING.
Q: Do I really need to do this?
A: You don’t have to, but this is the perfect opportunity to explore the possibility that you could benefit from talking to someone. Personally, I am a huge fan of counseling – which is primarily just talking about your life to a neutral party. I have had many clients go to therapists for the first time after their arrest and are very happy that they did.
Q: How do I find a good therapist?
A: Get online. Read reviews. Go meet a few and see if you like them. If you are having trouble finding someone, call us.
Q: Other than this lousy legal situation I’m in, I’m a pretty stable and grounded person. I don’t think I need to see a counselor.
A: That’s fine. I’m just saying that talking to a counselor is like getting a massage. Is there ever a time where a massage wouldn’t be nice? One of life’s great pleasures is talking about yourself to another person.
Q: I don’t think I can afford a therapist. How much do they cost? How often do I need to go see them?
A: Most counselors charge between $50 and $100 per session. Some will take insurance. The lowest-priced place that I know of is Capital Area Counseling. You can go once a week, twice a month, or once a month – whatever feels right to you.
8. COMPLETE THE LAW OFFICE QUESTIONNAIRE AND SEND US A GOOD PICTURE OF YOU.
Q: What is the questionnaire?
A: We call it the “Mitigation Profile”. It is a series of questions that helps us learn more about you and what your goals are. The questionnaire is here.
Q: When do I need to complete it?
A: We suggest that you do it within seven days of hiring us. However one of the questions asks about how the arrest has affected your life. If you want to wait a while for everything to sink in – that is fine. We are usually talking to the prosecutor for the first time about two months after the arrest. So anytime before two months will work.
Q: What kind of picture do you want? Can it have other people in it? Can it be me on vacation?
A: Just choose your favorite picture of yourself. Yes, it can have other people in it. Yes, vacation photos are fine. Don’t send one that looks like you are at a party or in a situation where alcohol is present (like a wedding). E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. EXPLORE NEW TRANSPORTATION MODELS.
Q: Why should I do this?
A: This is a good opportunity to find other ways to get around town – because it is likely that your license will be suspended at some point and if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have had anything to drink – it is good to know the options.
Q: What new models are there?
A: Uber and Lyft are incredible new resources. Download both of their apps now and take a short ride to see what the future looks like. Here is a video about how Uber works. Here is an article on how to use Uber.
Q: What else is available?
10. CHOOSE A NEW LIFE GOAL.
Q: What are you talking about?
A: Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do? Go back to school? Get trained in something? Write a book? Start a blog? Get a better job? Now is the time to focus on that goal. Use this lousy experience to motivate you towards something positive. Even something indulgent can be valuable – like traveling somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.
Q: I was actually considering delaying my life plans. Is that ok?
A: No! Now is not the time to stop your plans, it is the time to accelerate them. Think about it this way: getting arrested was lousy, don’t make it worse by delaying your goals!!
11. CONSIDER GIVING UP DRINKING FOR AWHILE.
Q: Do I have to?
A: If it is a condition of your bond, then yes. However, even if it is not a legal requirement, my recommendation is that you avoid alcohol for the entire time your case is pending.
Q: That seems extreme.
A: Possibly. It may, however, be the smartest thing you can do at this time. What’s the harm? You can still enjoy life. Try non-alcoholic beer, mocktails, and non-alcoholic wine. Yes, all those exist.
12. KEEP US UP-TO-DATE.
Q: What types of things do you need to know?
A: Obviously, if your address or phone number changes – let us know. But also let us know about anything positive that you do. We like to hear good news.
13. BUY CHARLIE'S BOOK: The Defendant's Guide to Defense, How to Help Your Lawyer Get the Best Result.
Check out this video about how the court system works.