Fourth of July DWI or BWI – Immediate Assistance Required

Whether you are celebrating in Addison at Kaboom Town, McKinney at Red, White & Boom, Rockin’ the River in Fort Worth, or actually on Lake Lewisville; if you land in jail as a result of a Driving (or Boating) While Intoxicated charge over the holiday weekend the consequences will be serious. You could be jailed for an extended time and face hefty fines. Additionally, a conviction will be on your record forever. Importantly, a record that any potential employer, landlord, or bank could will be able access easily. If you find yourself under arrest for DWI or BWI, immediately contacting a criminal defense attorney is vital.

Obviously, a holiday weekend will see an increased presence of law enforcement on the roadways (and lakes – where a Boating While Intoxicated charge is as equally painful as a DWI). Without immediate assistance from a criminal defense attorney, you will likely spend an extended weekend in jail. And with the legal holiday falling on a Tuesday this year, local courts may be running with a less-than-full staff – or no staff at all – until the middle of next week. This means that if you are arrested over the Fourth of July weekend, you may not see a judge for 48 hours – thereby significantly delaying your release from custody.

Do not delay in retaining a legal defense. The most important thing you can do for yourself and your family if you are arrested for Driving (or Boating) While Intoxicated is to consult with a criminal defense attorney about your case right away. I, or any Rosenthal & Wadas attorney, can assist with immediate release from jail, then carefully guide you through the legal process that will be ahead of you. Our office is available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 972-369-0577.

What Does It Mean to Plead No Contest in Texas?

When you are arrested in Collin County and charged with a criminal offense such as DWI, you are brought before a judge and asked to enter a plea. Typically, a person pleads either “guilty” or “not guilty.” But there is a third option: a plea of “nolo contendere,” or no contest.

A Criminal Record, But No Admission of Guilt for Civil Purposes

Texas law permits defendants to enter a plea of no contest in any misdemeanor or felony case. By pleading no contest, the defendant neither admits nor denies guilt but chooses, for whatever reason, not to take the case to trial. A no contest plea effectively ends the case.

In terms of criminal law, a no contest plea has the same “legal effect” as a guilty plea. For example, say you are charged with DWI and enter a no contest plea. The judge can still sentence you the same as if you had pleaded guilty. The DWI will also become a part of your criminal record.

So why then would anyone plead no contest? For one thing, since there is no admission of guilt, the no contest plea cannot legally be used against you in any civil suit arising from the same underlying act. To continue the above example, suppose your DWI involved an accident with another vehicle. The other driver files a personal injury lawsuit, claiming your negligence–i.e., drunk driving–caused the accident. If you pleaded guilty to the criminal DWI charge (or were convicted after pleading not guilty), that conviction could be used as evidence against you in the civil case. But a no contest plea has no such effect; the other driver would still have to prove that you caused the accident.

Negotiating a No Contest Plea

Even if you are not worried about potential civil liability, a no contest plea may simply allow you to get on with your life. Some people want to avoid the time, expense, and public exposure of a trial. And in many cases, especially first-time DWI offenses where nobody was injured, defendants may be able to secure a favorable sentencing agreement with prosecutors in exchange for a no contest plea.

For instance, former University of Texas and NFL quarterback Vince Young entered a no contest plea earlier this year to a DWI charge. The judge did not order any jail time, but fined Young $300, ordered him to perform community service, and required him to attend a DWI Education class and use an ignition interlock device on his car for nine months.

Now, there is no guarantee you would get similar treatment if charged with DWI. But if you have been charged and need help understanding all your legal options–including the benefits and risks of entering a no contest plea–you should speak with an experienced Collin County criminal defense attorney right away. Call Eddie Cawlfield today at 972-369-0577 to set up a free consultation to discuss your case.

DUI or DWI? In Texas, there is a difference.

As a criminal defense attorney, I obviously come in contact with people who have been charged with Driving While Intoxicated, otherwise referred to as “DWI.” That, in and of itself, is not terribly interesting. What is interesting though, is the high number of these individuals who refer to the offense as DUI. Certainly, the distinction can be confusing for at least two reasons:

1.) what is termed a DWI in Texas, is, in fact, called a DUI in many other states; and
2.) the offense of DUI does indeed exist in Texas, but it is an entirely different charge called Driving Under the Influence.

DWI or DUI?

In Texas, under Section 49.04 of the Penal Code, any person commits the offense of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) if the person is intoxicated while operating a vehicle in a public place. As most people know, Intoxication is defined as either having a Blood Alcohol Concentration of .08, or higher; or having lost the normal use of one’s physical OR mental faculties due to the introduction of alcohol or drugs (including lawfully prescribed medicines).

However, under Section 106.041 of the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code, DUI is committed when a minor operates a motor vehicle in a public place, or a watercraft, while having any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor’s system.

Stated simply, a DUI is an offense reserved only for minors – people under 21 years of age – who are believed to have consumed any detectable amount of alcohol. In other words, if a police officer smells alcohol on the breath of a minor while driving, the minor is subject to being arrested for DUI.

So obviously, only people under 21 years of age can be charged with DUI, and those over 21 cannot. Importantly though, minors can be charged with either offense. A minor – just like someone over 21 – may still be arrested for DWI if it is alleged that not only is there some alcohol in their system, but they are, in fact, intoxicated (as defined above).

DUI Punishment

Punishment for a DUI (first offense) includes:

  • a fine up to $500.00;
  • 20 to 40 hours of community service;
  • and a driver license suspension for 60 – 180 days.

Additionally, attendance in an Alcohol Awareness Course is required for the minor and may be required for the parent.

If you, or a loved one, are ever charged with DUI or DWI, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

*Edward “Eddie” Cawlfield is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice. For specific legal advice about any case please schedule a free consultation at 972-369-0577.

July 4th Weekend Is Here

July 4th weekend is here, and the furthest thing from your mind is being arrested for DWI. But keep in mind that law enforcement agencies will be out in force, watching for any signs of erratic driving, and ready to pull you over for the slightest reason.

What should you do to avoid being pulled over?
First and foremost, don’t drink and drive; designate a driver, use Uber or Lyft, or stay at home and host the barbecue yourself. Watch how much you drink, and by all means don’t take “one for the road.” Make sure all of your vehicle’s lights are in working order – headlights, brake lights, turn signal indicator lights, and don’t forget that little light over your car’s license plate. Be sure to obey all speed and traffic laws, and remember to use your turn signals. Many times, a driver will believe they are ok to drive after a drink or two. A police officer only needs “reasonable suspicion” to pull you over. Meaning, they saw an action that gave him enough reason to believe that you may have committed even the most-minor of traffic violations. These could include:

  • Not wearing your seat belt
  • Only having one license plate
  • Failure to use a turn signal 100 feet prior to your turn
  • Improper tinting
  • Taking a wide turn
  • Not yielding to right-of-way traffic

In Texas, there are harsh penalties for DWI convictions. If you or a loved one is arrested for DWI, act quickly and hire an experienced Collin County criminal defense attorney. Don’t risk your future, add my contact information to your cell phone 214-924-1592.
Have a safe and fun holiday weekend!

Victim Impact Panel in Collin County

When an individual is placed on probation after a conviction for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), there are a number of terms and conditions that must be satisfied before the probation can be completed successfully. Usually, these conditions include the individual’s attendance at a Victim Impact Panel (VIP). This requirement is among the most asked about by individuals as they first begin their probation.

According to the Collin County Community Supervision (probation) website, the VIP is based on the belief that “drunk drivers and potential drunk drivers need to be educated on alcohol-related offenses from the victims’ perspectives.”

At a VIP, panels of three to four victims speak briefly about drunk driving crashes in which they were injured or in which a loved one was injured or killed. They convey to offenders the devastating impacts these offenses have had on their lives.

Typically, panels are conducted one time per month and there is a fee (ranging from $25-$50) required for admission. Interestingly though, a number of VIP programs are now available to be completed online.

For more information on local Victim Impact Panels visit the Collin County website. For more information on other conditions attached to DWI convictions visit the Rosenthal & Wadas website.