If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, you may have noticed that some of the terminology used regarding your case may be confusing. A perfect example is the interchangeable way that many use the words suspension and revocation. It's not uncommon to see both words used to describe the suspension of driving privileges that follows a Texas DWI arrest. Even the State of Texas isn't particularly clear; their system for suspending driving privileges following a DWI arrest is known as administrative license revocation (ALR).
But a driver's license suspension is not the same thing as a revocation under Texas law. While you are more likely to face a driver's license suspension than a revocation after a DWI arrest, there are times in which the abuse of alcohol or other substances can lead to a revocation of your license. Despite your arrest, in some instances, it is possible to maintain your driving privileges while your suspension is being appealed. In other cases, you may be able to obtain a restricted license that allows you to travel to and from work even if your driver's license has been suspended for DWI.
Your best chance for maintaining your ability to drive after a DWI arrest is by hiring an experienced DWI defense attorney to help you. Many DWI defense attorneys will agree to defend you in court as well as at your ALR hearing. If you have a pending DWI charge in Harris County, Texas, the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. is here to help.
Texas DWI Driver License Suspension vs. Revocation
Despite the common confusion between the two words, the distinction between a suspension and a revocation of your driver's license is clear. A suspension of your driver's license is effectively a temporary hold on your ability to drive. You are still a licensed Texas driver, and when the suspension period is up, you will be able to reinstate your license so long as you meet the requirements set out by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. These requirements typically include paying off your fines and court costs and obtaining the appropriate liability insurance. Texas law limits most suspensions to no more than one year, although there are some exceptions to that rule, including Felony DWI convictions.
Revocation, on the other hand, is the indefinite removal of driving privileges according to Texas Transportation Code 521.312. A revocation effectively deletes your driver's license, meaning that there is no license to reinstate. The practical effect is that when your period of revocation is over, you will have to go through the process of applying for a Texas driver's license all over again. If you do not have a valid driver's license at the time you face revocation proceedings, you will be barred from applying for a driver's license at any point in the future.
Whether it is a suspension of your driving privileges or a complete revocation of your driver's license, the state must meet certain criteria before it takes away your ability to drive. While there are alcohol-related grounds for both suspensions and revocations, they differ in significant ways.
When can my license be suspended after a DWI?
After a Texas DWI stop, the State of Texas can suspend your driving privileges for two different reasons:
- You refused a chemical test in violation of the state's implied consent law; or
- You failed a chemical test that reflected your blood alcohol concentration was .08 or more.
The process the state uses to suspend your license after a DWI arrest is the ALR hearing. Once you have been arrested under suspicion of DWI, the arresting officer will confiscate your driver's license and replace it with a notice of suspension and temporary license.
This temporary license is good for 40 days. So, unless you timely request an ALR hearing to contest your suspension, it will go into effect after the 40 days are up. If you timely file a request for an ALR hearing your suspension will be put on hold until your ALR hearing is resolved. Requesting an ALR hearing is vital to keeping your license and there is no leniency if you miss the deadline to do so. Because of the risk of losing your license, it is recommended that you hire an experienced DWI defense attorney to handle your ALR case as well.
When can my license be revoked after a DWI?
There are five specific circumstances under which your license can be revoked by the State of Texas. Your license may be revoked if you are found to:
- be incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle;
- not have complied with the terms of a citation issued by a jurisdiction that is a party to the Nonresident Violator Compact of 1977 for a traffic violation to which that compact applies;
- have failed to provide medical records or have failed to undergo medical or other examinations as required by a panel of the medical advisory board;
- have failed to pass an examination required by the director under this chapter; or
- have committed an offense in another state or Canadian province that, if committed in this State, would be grounds for revocation.
Of those five grounds for revocation, a history of DWI convictions and substance abuse could lead to a revocation of your driver's license on the basis that you are incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.
The Texas Medical Evaluation Process for Licensing Drivers
In Texas, a panel of doctors known as the Medical Advisory Board (MAB) is charged by the Department of State Health Services to review the medical records of at-risk drivers to determine if their licenses should be revoked. There are a variety of reasons that a driver may be forwarded to the MAB. Common reasons for a MAB referral include:
- self-reported medical conditions,
- a report from a private citizen or doctor regarding the driver's condition, or
- convictions of multiple drug- or alcohol-related offenses, which is the most common of all reasons.
If you are referred to the MAB, the board will review your medical records and advise the Department of State Health Services on its findings. While you don't have a right for a hearing on the referral, you may be granted one upon request.
Reinstating Your License
Getting the privilege to drive again can take a lot of effort, especially if your original license was revoked. Helpfully, you can check your eligibility for the reinstatement of your driving privileges at the Texas Department of Public Safety website.
Reinstatement after a License Suspension
If, after your arrest for DWI, you are unsuccessful in challenging your suspension in the ALR hearing then your license will be suspended for up to two years. Once your suspension has run its course you will still have some hoops to jump through before you can get your license back.
The first step to reinstating your license is completing a 12-hour Alcohol Education Program. This must be done within 180 days of your conviction, so you should have your certificate in hand already by the time your suspension ends. If you have multiple convictions, you may also have to complete a Repeat Offenders DWI Drug Education Program.
Along with your class certificates, you also need to provide proof of SR-22 insurance coverage.
Finally, you need to have paid off your fines and court costs before your suspension will be officially lifted.
Reinstatement after a License Revocation
The possibility of getting a new license after your previous license was revoked depends on the basis for your revocation. If your license was revoked for a certain period of time, you will be able to apply for a new license once that time is up.
However, if your license was revoked under Texas Transportation Code 521.294 due to your inability to safely operate a motor vehicle, you will not be eligible for a new license until you are cleared by the MAB. Until you get a recommendation from the MAB that you are not a danger on the road, you won't be able to get a new license. If your inability to safely operate a motor vehicle is based upon your addiction to drugs or alcohol, the MAB will require you to show that you have received treatment for your substance issues.
If you are eligible to apply for a new license you will have to do more than simply apply for a reinstatement, like you would if your license had been suspended. You must apply for a brand new license as if you were a first-time driver. This means that on top of any fees, you also have to complete the mandatory licensing test. This includes both a knowledge test and a driving test with a state official riding with you.
An Experienced Houston DWI Defense Attorney May Help You Keep Your License
While it is possible in most circumstances to get your license back after a suspension, your best chance of avoiding a suspension is by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you in your criminal case as well as your ALR hearing. If you have been charged with DWI in Houston, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to discuss your case with one of only two Board Certified experts in criminal law and DWI defense law in the State of Texas.