The State Office of Administrative Hearings

If you have been arrested under suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI), the arresting police officer will--by law if you refuse or fail a breath or breath test--physically take possession of your driver's license, and then the officer will give you a temporary license and a Notice of Suspension. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT an automatic suspension. You have the legal right to challenge the suspension in an Administrative License Revocation hearing (ALR hearing). You must file a request for an ALR Hearing within 15-days of your arrest.

As we will discuss below, evidence in an ALR hearing can be used in a later DWI criminal trial. For that reason alone, you should seriously consider hiring an expert attorney, Board Certified in Criminal and DWI Defense, to represent you in the hearing. But you should also have counsel because you can win in an ALR Hearing. Most of DWI specialist Doug Murphy's clients save their driver's license at the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing.

Given the ALR's importance, let's review some basics about Texas’ State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), which is responsible for ALR hearings.

SOAH—Court Basics

SOAH handles litigation that relates to Texas' various state agencies. SOAH matters are legal proceedings, supervised by an Administrative Law Judge. In many ways, they are just like a trial in another court: Evidence is presented. Witnesses can be subpoenaed and testify. Lawyers make arguments before the judge, and the judge makes a decision.

But SOAH cases are different, in that all of the cases are civil proceedings, not criminal cases: A SOAH case may result in fines or other punishments, but there is no risk of prison from a SOAH-proceeding alone.

Therefore, to win in a SOAH-proceeding, the person bearing the burden of proof in the matter must only show there is “a preponderance of the evidence”—meaning it's more likely than not that the factual allegations are true. That is a much lower burden of proof than there is in criminal trials, which must use the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. All of the cases are litigated before a judge (there are no juries), and the court follows Texas' rules of civil procedure.

Types of Cases Heard at SOAH

Cases at SOAH fall under two categories: “general hearings” and the driver's license-related ALR cases.

Issues in General Hearings: While a state agency usually brings these matters against an individual or a business, individuals can also file a request for a hearing, if they believe that the agency has wrongly acted against them. SOHA's jurisdiction include:

  • Professional licensing and regulation
  • Workers' compensation medical fee disputes
  • Elder care
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Financial and utility regulation

Issues in ALR-Hearings: As explained, in an ALR-hearing, an individual is disputing the merit for the suspension of their license. They often are disputing the suspension (after either failing or refusing to take a breathalyzer test) on the basis of the following arguments:

  • There was no reasonable suspicion for the police officer to stop the driver;
  • There was no probable cause for a search;
  • There was no proper request for a breath or blood sample, and the driver could not choose another test (e.g. a blood test); and/or
  • There was no refusal or failure of a breath or blood test, or the driver's alcohol concentration was below the legal limit.

Have an Experienced DWI Defense Attorney represent you in an ALR Hearing

While the outcome of the ALR will not directly impact a result in DWI case, you and the prosecutor may rely on some of the evidence introduced in the ALR in a later criminal trial, and inconsistencies in testimony can be used to impeach a witness.

Therefore, it's important to think of the ALR-hearing as more than a hearing about your driver's license. It's also a dry-run for some of the legal defenses and the competency of the arresting officer and how you may use that testimony in a DWI trial. That's why it is so important to be represented by an expert DWI Defense lawyer.

One of the best DWI lawyers in Houston, Doug Murphy brings over 20 years of experience in the courtroom. Annually heralded as one of the Best Lawyers in America by US News , Murphy currently serves as the Dean of the National College for DUI Defense conducted at Harvard Law School, and he served two terms on the board of directors and as co-chair of the DWI Committee with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Doug is a Past President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.

If you are facing DWI charges in Texas, contact Doug Murphy’s office today to discuss your case and begin working on your defense.

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If you are facing DWI or other criminal charges in Texas, contact our office today to discuss your case, so we can begin working on your defense. Please provide only your personal email and cell phone number so that we can immediately and confidentially communicate with you.