License Suspension as a Criminal Penalty
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In Texas, receiving a charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) may involve the administrative and criminal suspension of your license. Both types of suspension involve separate proceedings—one administrative and another that is criminal. If you want to maintain your driving privileges during and after your DUI trial, your lawyer will need to represent you at both an administrative hearing with the Department of Public Safety, and your criminal trial.
When you get pulled over on suspicion of DWI, you may face the immediate administrative suspension of your license if you blow over .08 or refuse to give a breath sample. If and when you get convicted of DWI, which may be weeks after the administrative suspension, the judge may sentence you to an additional license suspension, the length of which depends on the specifics of your case. When this happens, it is important to consult a skilled DWI attorney who knows how to handle the intricacies of a DWI case. Call us today to schedule a private, free, no-risk consultation at (713) 222-6767 or contact us online.
How Long Can my License Be Suspended for DWI?
The following list provides the length of a criminal license suspension for different types of DWI case:
- First DWI conviction—you may be sentenced to a 90-day to 1-year license suspension
- Second DWI conviction—your license may get suspended for up to 2 years and a minimum of 180 days
- Third and subsequent DWI convictions—license suspension of 180 days to 2 years
- DWI with a child passenger in the car—if you were driving with someone under 15 at the time of the DWI, you could face an 180-day license suspension
In some cases, the court may credit the time your license was administratively suspended towards the length of your criminal suspension. For example, if your conviction for first DWI occurs 50 days after your administrative suspension started, the length of your criminal suspension could be as low as 40 days.
Getting a Hardship or Occupational Needs License
When your license gets suspended, it may seem like your life just got put on hold. Unless you live in one of the rare areas of Texas with a decent public transportation system, you will likely be unable to:
- Get to work or look for a job
- Drive your kids to school or extracurricular activities
- Attend religious services
- Do your shopping
- Get to college
Thus, a license suspension is a very harsh punishment for people intending to lead normal lives after their DWI conviction. Luckily, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) offers the possibility of obtaining an occupational license, which is available to people who demonstrate a substantial need to drive for any of the reasons stated above, and who have not applied for an occupational license within the last 10 years.
It’s a good idea to have a lawyer help you with your application. Not only will your DWI defense attorney be able to help show that you have good cause for obtaining a license, he or she can help you put together your license application, which involves:
- Visiting the court where the suspension was ordered and filing a petition
- Getting a signed court order, which you can also use as a 30-day temporary license.
- Providing DPS with the court petition and court order, a financial responsibility insurance certificate (form SR22) from your insurance company, a $125 license reinstatement fee and a $10 occupational license fee.
Your occupational license will be valid for 1 year and will allow you to drive during a 12-hour period each day. There may be other restrictions, such as having to use an ignition interlock device that won’t allow your car to run if you’re under the influence of alcohol. In other cases, the issuance of your occupational license may be conditional on your promise to attend a substance abuse treatment program.
Alternatively, you may want to apply for a hardship license, whose application procedures are similar to the ones for the occupational license. But to obtain a hardship driver’s license, you must be able to demonstrate the following:
- Your family will experience unusual economic hardship because of your inability to drive
- You need to use your driving privileges to care for a sick or disabled family member
- You are pursuing a vocational educational program that requires you to have a driver’s license
Fighting Your Criminal License Suspension
Even if your lawyer successfully avoids the administrative suspension of your license after the Department of Public Safety hearing, your driving privileges may be in jeopardy until your DWI charges are defeated. Ned Barnett is deeply experienced in defending DWI cases, and may be able to have your charges dismissed altogether if there is evidence that the authorities breached your constitutional rights during your traffic stop, sobriety tests, arrest, or detention.
With certifications in field sobriety testing, gas chromatography (used in blood tests), and as a breath test machine operator, attorney Barnett may also be able to challenge the prosecution’s use of these test results in your case. Such evidence is admissible only if the police or medical staff performed the tests by the book and on equipment that was functioning properly.
In the worst-case scenario where you get convicted of DWI, there will be a sentencing hearing during which your lawyer can advocate for the judge to give you a lenient sentence. One possibility is to request that your license suspension be probated—a possibility that is mentioned in Florida transportation Code section 521.309. This would mean that you could retain driving privileges in exchange for meeting probation requirements such as attending driving classes or a substance abuse treatment program.
You need the best Houston criminal defense attorney money can buy when your future is on the line. With over twenty years of experience defending DWI cases, The Law Offices of Ned Barnett is the first choice for DWI suspects who want the best outcome possible for their cases. A relentless advocate, creative trial strategist, and effective negotiator, attorney Barnett is ready to start fighting your DWI charges today. Call now at (713) 222-6767 for your free and confidential consultation.