If you're facing a DWI charge in Texas, you probably have many questions about the legal process and how a DWI conviction might affect your future. It's important to remember that a DWI charge does not equal a DWI conviction, and an experienced DWI lawyer can help. An expert in DWI defense can help guide you through the system and answer the many questions you have. One of the top questions we hear from Houston-area clients charged with a DWI is, “Can I drive after my DWI?”
Can I Drive After a Texas DWI Arrest?
When the police arrest you for DWI, they often will take your driver's license card from you. At the same time, they will give you a pink “notice of suspension” sheet that you can use in place of your license for 40 days. After 40 days, the state will automatically suspend your license--unless you requested an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing within 15 days of your arrest. If you drive on a suspended license, you could face another arrest and additional charges for driving while license invalid.
To avoid a suspended license, you must request an Administrative License Revocation hearing within 15 days of your arrest. If you request an ALR hearing, you can continue to drive--even after the 40 day period--until your ALR hearing takes place. Texas DPS will suspend your license for refusing or failing a breath or blood test if you fail to timely request an ALR hearing within 15 days after your 40-day grace period from the date of arrest.
1. What is an ALR Hearing?
An Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing is a formal civil legal proceeding challenging the legality of your license suspension. Typically, the state can suspend your license only if you:
- You had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher, or
- You refused to submit to BAC breath or blood tests.
2. What Happens During an ALR Hearing?
An ALR hearing gives you and your attorney a sneak peek into the evidence the state intends to bring against you at your DWI trial. Your attorney will have the opportunity to question the arresting officer, locking them into their testimony for trial. Your attorney may also see the prosecutor's intended strategy at trial and have the opportunity to challenge:
- Whether the police had reasonable suspicion for the initial traffic stop,
- Whether the police had probable cause to arrest you or to conduct BAC testing, and
- Whether there are any problems with the breath or blood BAC testing the police conducted against you.
If you win your ALR hearing, your driver's license will not be suspended. It can also potentially provide favorable testimony so that the state could dismiss or reduce the DWI charges against you or agree to modify them.
The Police Didn't Take Away My License After my DWI Arrest. Can I Drive?
Typically, before the police release you after your DWI arrest, they will confiscate your Texas license and give you a pink piece of paper that is a “notice of suspension” of your license. The license suspension goes into effect 40 days after your arrest unless you request an ALR hearing within 15 days of your arrest. However, this does not always happen in situations where a person consensually consents to a blood draw. It takes 30-60 days before blood is tested. In the event the blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit, Texas DPS will mail a "notice of suspension" to the address listed on the driver's license. You will have 20 days from the date of that letter to request an ALR hearing. That ALR hearing request is to a different DPS fax number than the regular ALR hearing request.
Even if the police don't physically take away your license for some reason, or if you have an out-of-state license, you should receive a “notice of suspension” before the police release you from custody. This notice of suspension can apply even if you have an out-of-state license.
However, your notice of suspension will allow you to drive for 40 days before it goes into effect. If you request an ALR hearing within 15 days of your arrest, however, you can drive with your “notice of suspension” until the administrative judge rules on your ALR hearing.
I Have an ALR Hearing Scheduled. Can I Drive?
Typically, yes. The request for the ALR hearing stays (legally stops) Texas DPS from imposing any license suspension unless and until an administrative judge rules on the 4 issues to be determined at an ALR hearing. Typically, after a DWI arrest in Texas, the police will confiscate your driver's license and give you a pink notice of suspension. This pink paper serves as a temporary license for 40 days. However, if you request an ALR hearing challenging the legality of your license suspension within 15 days of your DWI arrest, you can continue to drive with your notice of suspension until your ALR hearing--even if the ALR hearing is well beyond the 40 days. So, if you have an ALR hearing scheduled, you can continue to drive unless and until an administrative judge rules on the legality of your license suspension. One of the few exceptions is if the criminal court judge ordered you as a condition of bond not to operate a motor vehicle.
I Posted Bail or a Bond After my DWI Arrest. Can I Drive?
After a DWI arrest, the system may release you on your own recognizance in exchange for your agreement to return to court to answer the charges against you. However, in some cases, the court may require you to post bail or a bond for your release.
1. What is Bail?
Bail is a monetary promise you make to the court that you'll return to the court to face the charges against you. The amount of bail the court requires will depend on the seriousness of the charges against you and the court's perceived risk that you might fail to appear. There are several options for bail in Texas:
- Bail: If the court feels it's necessary, it may set bail as security that you'll return to court for DWI hearings and trial. Your bail may include a personal or bail bond.
- Bond: For a bond, you or a surety will sign an agreement, a bond, agreeing that you will appear in court. If you fail to appear, you or your surety must pay the amount of the bond to the court.
- Bail Bond: A bail bond is a surety agreement similar to any other bond, but you will often pay a fee to a bail bond agent who will act as your surety. A bail bond agent will often require security from you or a friend or family member against the bond, such as a car or home. The bail bond agent may also post a portion of the bail on your behalf. If you fail to appear, the bail bond agent will forfeit the deposit or must pay the bond. But the bail bond agent will also likely enforce the agreement you or a loved one made with you or a loved one and come after the assets with which you secured their services.
- Cash Bond: For a cash bond, you will pay the total amount of the bond posted in cash, money order, or cashier's check. If you appear in court, the Sheriff's Department will refund your bond once the court resolves the matter.
2. Can I Drive After Posting Bail or a Bond?
Whether you've posted bond or bail typically has nothing to do with whether you can continue to drive. Typically, the police confiscate your Texas license before releasing you from custody. In exchange, they will give you a pink paper that is a notice of suspension of your driver's license. You can continue to drive with this notice for 40 days. After that point, the state automatically suspends your license until you resolve your DWI. However, if you request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing challenging the legality of your license suspension within 15 days of your arrest, you can continue to drive until the court rules on your ALR request.
In some cases, however, the court may add provisions to your release on bail or bond that include limitations on your ability to drive. The court may require you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle to prevent driving if it detects a blood alcohol level above a certain level. IIDs are not cheap and typically carry installation fees, removal fees, and monthly maintenance and leasing fees. You cannot remove or disconnect the IID because you could damage the device or your car. At one point, the IID couldn't tell who was blowing into the device, but some IIDs used in Texas are required to use and include cameras. If the police catch you tampering with your IID or trying to trick it by having someone else start your car, you could face additional criminal charges and have the court revoke your license.
What's the Difference Between a Suspended License and a Revoked License?
Many people use the terms “suspended license” and “revoked license” interchangeably, but they aren't the same. When the court suspends your license after a DWI, you are still a Texas driver. When the temporary hold on your license is complete, you can reinstate your license. Usually, your suspension will be one year or less unless you have a felony DWI conviction. A suspension can go up to two years in some cases depending upon facts and criminal history.
When the state revokes your Texas license, it removes your driving privileges permanently under Texas Transportation Code 521.312. Once your revocation period is up, you will need to apply for a Texas driver's license again. If you don't already have a Texas license when the court revokes your driving privileges, the state won't allow you to apply for a Texas license until the revocation period is up.
How Can I Reinstate My License After a DWI?
Typically, you can reinstate your license after a DWI as long as you've waited the necessary amount of time and meet court and state requirements. The requirements for reinstatement vary depending on whether the state suspended or revoked your license.
Reinstating a Suspended License After a DWI
If the court convicts you of DWI, it will suspend your license for up to two years, depending on whether your conviction is for a felony or a misdemeanor DWI. After your suspension is over, you'll need to meet some state and court requirements to reinstate your suspended license, including:
- Completing a 12-hour Alcohol Education Program within 180 days of your DWI conviction,
- Completing a Repeat Offenders DWI Drug Education Program if you have multiple DWI convictions, and
- Paying all of your fines and court costs.
Texas will also require you to provide proof of SR-22 insurance coverage, which is high-risk insurance coverage. With an SR-22 endorsement on your insurance policy, you agree to maintain insurance coverage for a set period. If you drop your coverage or your insurance company cancels it, the company will also alert the Texas Department of Transportation. As a result, Texas may suspend or revoke your license once again.
Reinstating a Revoked License After a DWI
If the state revoked your license under section 521.294 of the Texas Transportation Code, they revoked your license because you cannot safely operate a motor vehicle. After your revocation period is up, you can't apply for a new license until the Medical Advisory Board of the Texas Department of Public Safety recommends that you are no longer a danger on the road. If your “inability to safely operate a motor vehicle” was based on alcohol or drug addiction, you'll need to prove that you've received treatment for your addiction.
Once the MAD clears you, you'll need to apply for a new license as if you were a first-time applicant. You will need to take both a knowledge test and a driving test with a Texas official riding in the car. You will also need to pay any new license application fees.
The Best Way to Retain Your License After a Texas DWI: Hire a Board Certified Expert in DWI Defense
Attorney Doug Murphy is an expert in DWI defense. He is Board Certified in DWI defense by the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association, and recognized by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Doug is one of only two Texas attorneys who are Board Certified in both DWI defense and criminal law defense. Doug also recently received “Lawyer of the Year” recognition for 2021 DWI defense from Best Lawyers in America through the reviews of his peers in the DWI defense industry.
Doug is passionate about DWI defense and helping his clients. He has defended hundreds of people in the Houston area, striving to protect their rights and their reputations. If you're facing a charge for DWI, Doug can help. Give us a call at 713-229-8333 to set up a consultation today.