2023 Travis County DWI Guide part 2 - Bond and Jail Release
The first step after any DWI arrest is getting out of custody. After an arrest in Travis County, a person is taken downtown to the Travis County Jail at 500 West 10th Street. After being booked in, he or she will wait to be “magistrated” by a judge. This is the process whereby a judge reads the charges and rights to the arrestee and sets bond. Magistration happens a few times per day in Travis County.
One advantage to hiring an attorney at this stage of the process is that an attorney can explain these rights to the defendant and waive the magistration process. This would allow a person to be released sooner since he or she is not waiting for the judge to complete the magistration process. Waiving magistration can sometimes save 8 hours or more time in custody.
A Personal Recognizance (PR) Bond is usually the preferred way to be released because you can avoid paying money to a bondsman. Except for a small fee, it is a “free” bond. You would only owe the amount of the bond if you miss court and the bond is revoked. Judges will often grant a PR bond for a misdemeanor DWI even without an attorney. Sometimes, the Magistrate will not grant a PR bond, but an attorney can advocate for his client and bring mitigating factors to the attention of the judge. So, even if a PR bond is denied initially, a lawyer can sometimes change that decision.
There are some cases with “bad facts” that will cause a judge to deny a PR bond. For example, if there was a collision with injuries to a third party, a judge may be less likely to grant a PR bond. Likewise if there is a breath test that is extremely high, it can cause the judge to deny the PR bond request. In these situations, the options may be to pay a bondsman or hire an attorney to change the judge’s mind.
Cash and Surety Bonds
In cases where a PR bond is denied, one option is to go through a bondsman for a surety bond. A bondsman requires a fee, usually 10% of the amount of the bond. You do not receive this money back even if you attend all your court dates. Sometimes, bondsmen require a cosigner – someone who promises to pay the full amount of the bond if it is revoked by the Court and has the resources to do so. ATX Legal does not endorse any specific bondsmen. There are a number of them located around the courthouse that are available 24/7. We recommend calling several to find the best offer.
If you have the means to post the full amount of the bond, you may do so in cash. In this case, you will receive the money back after your court obligations are done. To post a cash bond, you would go to the booking desk at the Travis County Courthouse next to the jail. They accept exact cash, cashier’s check or money order. No personal checks. If it has been several days since the arrest, the person may have been transported to the Travis County Correction Center in Del Valle. If that’s the case, the cash bond needs to be posted there. Call 512-854-4180 to find out where he or she is housed.
The judge can impose any condition on your bond to keep the community safe or to limit risk of flight. Not all misdemeanor DWIs will have these conditions. It is up to the discretion of the judge. If the judge imposes a condition and you break it, your bond could be revoked, and you can end up back in custody.
For DWIs, the most common condition is a device to prevent drinking and driving. There are 3 types of devices used in Travis County. The Ignition Interlock Device (IID), the Portable Alcohol Monitor (PAM) and the Secure Continuous Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM). In some cases, these conditions may be removed early if they are no violations for a period of three months or so. Additionally, time with the IID or other device where there are no violations can aid in plea negotiations and even be counted toward a condition of probation.
Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
This is the most common. It is a device that attaches to your vehicle. You must blow into it and get a reading of no alcohol, or the vehicle won’t start. Sometimes, you will also need to blow again while driving. It is installed by a vendor (see the resources section for a list) and you must take the vehicle in periodically to get it “calibrated”, which means they take a reading to see if there were any violations. The cost of the IID varies among vendors, but is approximately $75 per month, plus an installation fee.
Something to watch out for: occasionally the installation is bad and the IID will drain the car battery. This is an unfortunate reality and the burden of the cost falls on the defendant. Also note – the condition is placed on the defendant, not the vehicle, meaning that the person is not allowed to drive any vehicle not equipped with an IID. This can sometimes be an issue if a person drives a vehicle for work.
By law, the IID is required as a condition of bond for people charged with their second or later DWI, as well as first time offenders with a BAC over .15 (class A misdemeanor) and anyone under 21. Note, that BAC blood test results can take months. If the test later comes back over .15, the prosecutor will typically petition the court to add IID as a condition of bond even if it wasn’t previously a condition.
Portable Alcohol Monitor (PAM)
If a person does not own a car or the car is not in a driveable condition, a PAM device can replace the IID. A PAM is a handheld device that you can carry with you. You must blow into the PAM on a schedule or else you get a violation.
For many reasons, I do not recommend the PAM device. First, people inevitably forget to blow. It’s human nature. With the IID, you must blow when you start the car. There’s no schedule to keep. On the other hand, you have to be vigilant to keep a schedule with the PAM. You might have to try to inconspicuously take a break at work, or even set an alarm to wake up and blow into the device. It’s a huge inconvenience. It also costs more than the IID. For these reasons, it is not recommended.
Secure Continuous Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM)
The SCRAM device will sometimes be ordered if a person has numerous violations with the IID or in other severe cases. I’ve even seen a felony DWI where a judge ordered IID and SCRAM together, but that is exceedingly rare. The SCRAM device fits around the ankle and continuously monitors for alcohol on the skin. It can’t get wet, so you have to be careful in the shower. It can generate false positives for any body or cleaning product that contains a little bit of alcohol. It can sometimes cause a rash on the skin. It’s also very expensive, coming in at around $400 per month.
Doesn’t sound great, right? There’s only one situation where I would recommend it. If you’ve lost your job, or otherwise are having financial trouble, the court can order that the County cover the costs of the SCRAM. This County-pay option is not typically available for the other devices. Other than that very specific situation, I will fight to keep the SCRAM off of my client’s ankles. In severe cases (felony or misdemeanor with multiple IID violations), it’s sometimes the only option to avoid custody. In these cases, I will usually petition the Court to remove the SCRAM if my client goes several months with no violations. Keep in mind that the SCRAM is always monitoring, so a person cannot drink any alcohol at any time – not just while driving.
When you’re in jail, getting out is going to be the first priority. For misdemeanors, hiring an attorney at this point in the process can speed things up and sometimes lessen the burden of conditions once released. For felonies, it can mean the difference between getting released quickly, or waiting weeks or months in custody while the case is resolved. If you or a loved one has been arrested for DWI and is currently in custody, you can call 512-677-5003 or visit atx.legal.