DWI Classes FAQ
Q: I was charged with a DWI. You’ve advised me to take the DWI classes in advance. Which classes should I take?
A: The majority of people charged with DWI (first offense) in Travis County are required to take two DWI classes: a 12-hour DWI Education course (DWIE) and a 3-hour session (MADD – Victim Impact Panel). You will receive certificates when you finish them.
Q: What if this isn’t my first DWI? Or if I have been arrested many times on alcohol/drug related charges?
A: Then you will likely be required to take more (and different) classes.
Q: Ok. This is my first DWI. Why do I have to take these two classes?
A: The classes are either a condition of your personal bond or of an eventual plea bargain that will be negotiated with the Travis County Attorney.
Q: But I was only arrested – I haven’t been convicted. Why do you recommend that I take the classes?
A: The prosecutors usually give us some credit for taking the classes in advance. It shows that you are taking the case seriously. The prosecutors can reduce the terms of probation – such as the length of probation, fine and/or community service. In some cases taking the classes will tip the scale to a reduction/dismissal. This only happens in cases where there is minimal evidence of intoxication.
Q: Is there any way to talk the judge/prosecutors out of requiring me to take the classes?
A: There are only three (rare) scenarios where you do not need to take the classes: (1) If you decide to plead guilty and sit out your sentence in county jail (usually 30-90 days). (2) If we have a jury trial and win. (3) If the judge throws out your case because the police violated the law during the arrest.
Q: What if I am innocent?
A: Well, if the police officer who arrested you contacts the prosecutor and says that he/she made a mistake, I can probably get the classes waived.
Q: Does that ever happen?
Q: Won’t it look like an admission of guilt if I take the classes?
A: No. Taking the classes makes you look like a responsible adult.
Q: What is the 12-hour class? What is it like?
A: The DWIE class curriculum was designed by the State of Texas. The class is like a group counseling session combined with an 8th-grade health class. Nobody wants to take the class, but the majority of my clients say that it wasn’t too bad and that they learned something. While the curriculum could be improved (the videos and Powerpoint file are outdated), I think the class is very effective in creating an environment where people can self-reflect on their relationship with alcohol.
Q: How do you know what the class is like?
A: I received a certification to teach the class and have taught it many times (although I don’t have time to teach anymore). I really enjoyed teaching it though. Here is a video I made about the class.
Q: Where do they offer the 12-hour class? Is it all on one day?
A: The 12-hour (DWIE) class is offered by approximately 7 private companies in Austin. Here is a map with all the companies that currently offer the class. It is also offered by Travis County Counseling and Education Services (avoid if possible). The company I recommend is Education Resource on William Cannon. The class is taught over three days (four hours a day), but each company has a different schedule. They are not allowed to teach it in a single day – three days is the minimum.
Q: Will I have to talk in the class?
A: They can’t force you to talk, but the course is designed to elicit conversations. Even my most laconic clients end up participating. They ask the class about their opinions on various alcohol-related topics. You will likely hear some crazy answers from the other students.
Q: Can I just sleep through the class?
A: No. There is test at the end. It is very simple, but you will need to pay attention to pass it.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: The companies charge anywhere from $70-$90 for the DWIE class.
The 2-Hour MADD (Victim Impact Panel) Class
Q: What is the MADD class like?
A: The MADD panel is given in one of the courtrooms at the Travis County courthouse. They have a few speakers and occasionally a video. You will hear some very sad stories, however they try not to make it unbearable. You will be with 50-70 other people who are in the same situation as you. Mostly folks just look at the floor and pray for it to be over. Here is a video about the MADD class.
Q: Will I have to talk in that class?
Q: When do they offer the MADD class?
A: Currently the class is offered every 1st, 3rd, and 4th Wednesday of the month at the Blackwell Thurman Justice Center. Here is a link to location and date information.
The class costs $25. You can register and pay online. They also accept cash or money orders. The money order should be made out to MADD. You should get there at 5:30 PM. Please read the class rules before attending. Here is the link.
Q: When should I take these two (DWIE and MADD) classes?
A: We recommend that you complete them within 3 months of your arrest date. This allows us to present them to the prosecutor at the first pre-trial conference.
Q: I don’t want to do these classes! I don’t have time. This is going to be terrible.
A: It won’t be as bad as you think, I promise.
Q: What should I do with the certificate?
A: Take a photo of the certificate and e-mail it to us.
Q: Do you have a good Buddhist quote that can get me through this?
A: Of course! How about: “Rise to the challenges that life presents you. You can’t develop genuine character and ability by sidestepping adversity and struggle.”
Q: Ok. What is a CES evaluation?
A: This is when Travis County Counseling and Education Services interviews you to determine what classes they recommend. It is done in two sessions and costs $55.
Q: When do I do that?
A: You will need to do that if you are placed on probation or if the judge required it as a condition of your bond. If this is your first DWI and you have no other alcohol/drug related criminal history, we suggest that you hold off on the CES evaluation for now (unless we tell you otherwise).
Q: Why should I not do the CES evaluation yet?
A: Sometimes we are able to avoid the CES evaluation entirely.
Q: If I haven’t taken the CES evaluation, how do you know what classes to have me take?
A: The minimum level of classes they recommend is the 12-hour DWIE class. So if you are arrested for a first DWI, they are guaranteed to recommend at least that one.
Q: I had a high blood alcohol content (BAC). I’m fairly certain that I’ll end up on probation and I’d like to get things over with. Should I go ahead and sign up for the CES evaluation?
Q: What if I still have more questions?
A: No problem. Call us at (512) 472-1113. Or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.