Harris County, Texas and other surrounding counties have a DWI Pretrial Intervention program (DWI PTI). This program is used for first time DWI offenders to be accountable for the offense. It is also an opportunity to have the matter expunged and removed from their criminal record.
How Long is DWI PTI?
Typically, DWI PTI is a one-year probation. During the course of the probation, participants meet with a probation officer once a month. Additionally, participants perform community service work and take a drug and alcohol course. It is also required that participants may only operate their motor vehicle with an “interlock” or alcohol monitoring device for at least the first six months of the probation period. There are other conditions that may be included based on recommendations from an assessment that is performed prior to entering the contract.
What Happens When I Complete DWI PTI?
At the conclusion of the probation, if the client has successfully completed all the terms, then the arrest and case is eligible to be expunged at a later date. This leaves the client’s record clean as if this DWI never occurred.
Basically, this program allows clients to “earn” a dismissal.
If Eligible, Why Not DWI PTI?
Some attorneys will immediately push clients who are eligible into this program.
We do not.
When clients hire us, we work up the DWI for trial just like any other case. We ensure there is a valid traffic stop. Our firm wants to be certain that there was a legal reason for law enforcement to have come into contact with our clients in the first place. Then we review the standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) on both “dash cam” from the officer’s patrol car and bodyware camera footage, if that is available. Next, we review the blood draw, if blood was taken. It is also important that if a warrant was sought to obtain the client’s blood that the warrant is reviewed to ensure it was obtained legally.
There is much more that goes into DWI defense because of the scientific nature of these cases. The point is, we do not skip over the hard work just because a client may be eligible for this pretrial intervention program.
So who is eligible?
* Clients charged with a Class B DWI are eligible for DWI PTI;
* The DAs office prefers people with clean records (but may accept clients with certain prior arrest/convictions. This is decided on a case by case basis);
* It is required that you had a valid driver’s license and insurance at the time of the stop (but sometimes exceptions may be made if good cause is shown);
* The breath or blood test must be under .15 (although the DA’s office may consider folks with BACs close to .15, if slightly over);
* Another factor regarding eligibility is that there was not an accident at the time of arrest.
What is the application process?
To begin the process, your lawyer asks the DA to evaluate the case for qualification for DWI PTI. If the DA approves your case for the program, they will let the attorney know. In some courts, the attorney may have to get the judge’s approval also.
Once approved by all, your lawyer will assist you in completing an application to the program. The application will ask you for your basic information. It will also require a short statement explaining where you were on the night of your arrest, where you were going, how much you had to drink, and an explanation of why you need the pre-trial intervention.
Mainly, the DA’s office wants to know why the pretrial intervention program is more appropriate for you than a standard probation that results in a conviction.
You will also complete a “waiver.” The waiver basically says that if you violate probation, then the State can void your contract, and all the statements written in your application can be used against you if you decide to go to trial and testify.
TRAS – Texas Risk Assessment System
Once the application is complete, the Court Liaison Officer “CLO” (probation officer of the court) will schedule an evaluation or assessment called a TRAS (Texas Risk Assessment System) interview. This interview will indicate whether the State believes you are at low, moderate, or high risk to the public or for getting arrested again. This tool is used somewhat as a measurement of your ability to be successful on this program.
You will be given a date to attend the TRAS interview. Once the interview is complete, the interviewer issues a report and sends it to the court.
If everything is approved, the DA will send your lawyer a copy of the contract. At our firm, we will review the contract with you to ensure you understand all of the terms and obligations.
On the day of court, we will submit the contract to the judge to enter an order granting admission into the program. The case is reset for 1 year.
In 1 year, if you have successfully completed the terms of your agreement, then your case will be dismissed.
Expunction of Arrest
Later down the road, you will be eligible to apply for an expunction – this is entirely another process.
What if I do not succeed?
What happens if you violate the probation? If you violate the terms of the program, the DA will remove you and put you back on the court’s docket to start all over again. It is as if you had never been placed in the program. There is no credit given for the time, expenses or accomplishments while in the program.
Changes due to COVID-19
At the time of writing this blog, entry into the program is more electronic and virtual than in-person due to COVID-19.
Being granted a pretrial intervention can be a great tool for a first-time DWI offender with a clear record, as long as the client is capable of successfully completing the program. However, as stated above, step one is to ensure the charge alleged is a legal and valid DWI first.