Generally in Texas, if you are arrested for a crime you only need to focus on the criminal proceedings against you. An arrest for driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases are different. In addition to the DWI charges pending against that put you at risk of fines and jail time, you will also face a civil case against your driver's license to suspend your driving privileges. You need to know two very important things after you are arrested for DWI arrest in Texas: (1) your license suspension does not begin immediately, and (2) the license suspension can also be completely prevented by requesting an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing within 15 days of the fate of your arrest. Even though your plastic driver's license is confiscated by law enforcement immediately and replaced with a Notice of Suspension that is a temporary license for 40 days before an automatic suspension begins--only if you do not request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing within 15 days of the date of your arrest. if you make a timely request for an ALR hearing, any potential license suspension is placed on hold--regardless if the hearing is scheduled more than 40 days on the temporary driving permit--until after the ALR hearing is conducted.
Thankfully, you are afforded the right to challenge your driver's license suspension at a hearing before your license suspension goes into effect. These hearings are complicated and follow a different set of rules of procedure than the criminal case does. The good news is that an experienced DWI board certified attorney can be the difference between saving your driver's license versus having your driver's license suspended. If you have been arrested for DWI in Houston and need experienced representation at your Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing, Board Certified DWI lawyer Doug Murphy is ready to represent you. Not only will he defend your driving privileges, he will use the ALR hearing as an opportunity to get started on your DWI criminal defense to gain a valuable testimony.
What happens to your driver's license after a DWI arrest?
If you are arrested under suspicion of driving while intoxicated, there are two things that can result in the immediate revocation of your driver's license:
- Having a breath or blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, or
- Refusing to submit to a breath or blood test.
Under Texas law, the implied consent statute only applied after you are placed under arrest for suspicion of DWI. After a refusal or a failure, the law enforcement officer is required to confiscate your Texas driver's license.
*One exception to that is if you've had your blood drawn and the testing wasn't done immediately. If the lab test determines your blood alcohol concentration was .08 or above, you will be mailed written notification of your license suspension to the last address contained on your driver's license. If your address is not current, you need to immediately change your address with the Texas Department of Public Safety at one of their local offices near you.
Notice of Suspension as Temporary Driver's License in Texas
Being issued a notice of suspension is not the end of your ability to drive, though. The arresting officer will issue you a pink slip known as a Notice of Suspension. That notice has two purposes. First, the Notice of Suspension informs you of your rights regarding your suspended driver's license. It outlines the timeframe in which you have to request a formal hearing of your suspension. Second, Notice of Suspension acts as a temporary driver's license to be used immediately after your DWI arrest.
The temporary driving privileges your Notice of Suspension provides only last for 40 days. These temporary licenses are intended to give you time to settle your affairs and obtain other forms of transportation. While it is possible to obtain other types of driving privileges during your suspension, this 40-day license has a set end date.
Driver's License Suspension Takes Effect after 40 Days
Your DWI suspension is set to begin immediately after the 40 days are up--unless you timely requested an ALR hearing to challenge your Texas license suspension. You have only 15 days from the date you receive the Notice of Suspension in which to request a hearing. Any failure to request a hearing within 15 days will result in your suspension automatically beginning after the 40 days are up. This short window of time to take action on your suspension is one reason why it's important to begin your search for the right DWI attorney immediately upon being arrested.
The Texas Administrative License Revocation Process
If you timely file your request for a hearing, a hearing date will be set for you. Until that hearing is resolved, your suspension will not go into effect.
So what is the ALR process? The ALR process is:
a civil administrative process unrelated to criminal court proceedings, in which individuals arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) who refuse to take or who fail a blood or breath test attempt to save their driver's license.
The ALR Hearing in Harris County TX
Once a hearing is requested, it is up to the State of Texas to prove that your license should be suspended. The State prefers to put on its case by using a sworn affidavit from the arresting officer that attests to his or her memory of the arrest.
But you have the right to require the officer to attend and testify so long as you serve the officer with a subpoena. Having the officer testify can elicit information that wasn't in the police report and also allows your attorney the opportunity to pin down the officer's story. This can be useful information in your ALR hearing as well as in your criminal trial. The State typically proves their case at an ALR hearing one of two ways: proving that you refused to submit to a test or proving that your BAC was .08 or above.
Proving That You Refused to Submit to a Test
The act of refusing to submit to a breath or blood test to determine your BAC is grounds for a suspension of your driving privileges. But the state has to prove more than the fact that you did not take a breath or blood test. To begin with, the state must show that reasonable suspicion existed to stop your vehicle in the first place. If the arresting officer didn't have reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle, any evidence collected from the traffic stop would be excluded from evidence. That includes your refusal to take a test.
The State must also show that you were properly requested to submit to testing. In Texas, law enforcement officers must read you what's known as an Implied Consent form. Among other things, it informs you that they can't force you to submit to testing without a warrant, but that a refusal to submit will lead to a license suspension. Finally, they must also prove that you did, in fact, refuse any blood or breath testing.
Proving Your BAC was .08 or Above
The case against you will proceed differently if the state is alleging you were tested and had a breath or blood test of 0.08 or more. Like with a refusal case, the State must show that the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle. What's more, the state must also show evidence that your BAC was .08 or more.
After the Texas ALR Hearing
Even if you lose your hearing, all is not lost. You are given 30 days from the posting of the results for your hearing to appeal. Failure to do so will result in your license suspension going into effect on the 31st day after your ALR hearing decision. A timely appeal will stay your DWI license suspension for an additional 90 days to allow for the appeal to be heard. This can be a useful tool if you are planning on a trial in your criminal case.
If you are acquitted of the DWI charges in criminal court while your appeal is still pending, your ALR case will be dropped and your license will be reinstated.
Even if you ultimately are required to serve your license suspension, there are a large number of exceptions that would allow you to continue operating a motor vehicle. If you can show “good cause” that you need to be able to drive to meet certain needs like driving to work or your child's school, you may be eligible for an “occupational driver's license.” This license is very restrictive. It can limit the places you drive or the time of day you are on the road. It can also require that you install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
Potential License Suspensions in Texas after a DWI
There are two different time frames your DWI license suspension can fall under. The duration of a driver's license suspension depends on the circumstances of your arrest and your criminal history.
For most first-time offenders, a DWI license suspension will last between 90 days and 1 year. There are exceptions, however. First, even if you are a first-time offender, your potential license suspension range is between 180 days and two years if you refused to submit to a blood or breath test. A first-time offender may also face a suspension between 180 days and 2 years if his or her BAC registered .15 or more. In cases where you have at least one prior DWI conviction on your record in the previous ten years, you can also face a driver's license suspension between 180 days and 2 years.
Board-Certified DWI and Criminal Defense Attorney in Houston, Texas
Your best chance for preventing the suspension of your driving privileges is by having an experienced Houston DWI attorney advocate for you at your ALR hearing. An experienced defense attorney will have the experience and insight to poke holes in the State's case and highlight your defenses. An attorney can even file your formal request for an ALR hearing for you, saving you the time and hassle of figuring out how to file it yourself.
If you have been arrested for DWI in Houston, Texas, Doug Murphy -- being only one of two lawyers in the State of Texas to be Board Certified in criminal law and DWI defense-- knows how to help. Doug Murphy has handled a large number of DWI trials and ALR hearings, making his skillset and experience ideal for helping you win your case. To discuss your case with Doug Murphy, contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today to set up your free consultation.