One of the harshest consequences of getting a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge is having your license revoked. The suspension of your driving privileges results from an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) proceeding, which is separate from your criminal DWI case. An ALR proceeding may be opened against you if you refused to submit to, or failed, a breath or blood test when you were pulled over. This means that your license may be suspended even before you’ve been convicted of DWI in criminal court.
By hiring a skilled Houston DWI defense attorney, you will not only increase your chances of avoiding the fines and possible jail time resulting from a DWI conviction, but you’ll also give yourself a significant advantage when navigating the administrative proceedings necessary to maintain your driver’s license after a DWI. Call us today at (713) 222-6767 for experienced representation after a DWI.
Under What Circumstances Will my License Get Suspended?
The threshold amount of alcohol a driver may have in his or her system to drive legally is .08 parts of alcohol per 100ml of blood or 210 liters of breath. If a police officer detects this amount (or greater) in your system, Texas Transportation Code section 524 provides the following administrative penalties:
- If you haven’t had any alcohol or drug related incidents within the ten years preceding your failed breath or blood test, your license will be suspended for 90 days.
- If you have one or more alcohol or drug-related incidents on your driving record in the last ten years, your license will get suspended for 1 year.
According to Texas Transportation Code section 724, any person who operates a motor vehicle on Texas roads must consent to a breath or blood test when a police officer has reasonable cause to believe that driver to be intoxicated. Refusing to give a breath of blood sample will result in the suspension of driving privileges as follows:
- If you haven’t had any alcohol or drug related incidents on your driving record in the last ten years, your license may be suspended for 180 days.
- If you have one or more alcohol or drug-related incidents on your driving record within the last ten years, your license may get suspended for 2 years.
- If you don’t have a license, and are a resident of Texas, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) will not issue a license for 180 days.
In most cases, you may have the choice to refuse a blood or breath test and face these administrative penalties. But if your alleged drunk driving resulted in a fatal or serious accident, the police may force you to take a breath or blood test to determine your intoxication.
How Can I Avoid my License’s Suspension?
If you refuse to submit to a blood or alcohol test, or if such a test shows that you were over the limit at the time of your arrest, the authorities will confiscate your Texas driver’s license and issue you a 40-day temporary driving permit. After these 40 days run out, the temporary driving permit expires and your Texas driver’s license will be suspended—unless you file a written request for an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing within 15 days of your arrest.
When you make a timely request for an ALR hearing, your license can’t be suspended unless the Department of Public Safety (DPS) proves by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- The arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to pull you over and reasonable cause to arrest you.
- The arresting officer had probable cause to believe you were driving or in control of a vehicle in a public place while under the influence.
- You were placed under arrest and the officer offered you the opportunity to provide a blood or breath sample and notified you of the consequences of failing the test or refusing to provide a sample.
- You either refused or failed the blood or breath test.
The hearing during which DPS must prove these elements unfolds like a trial, and having an attorney to advocate for you and present evidence on your behalf can greatly improve your chances of keeping your license. Indeed, if the authorities fail to make their case against you, they must give your license back.
What Are My Options if my License is Suspended After the ALR Hearing?
If you lose your hearing, you may request an appeal within 30 days of the judgment against you. If you miss the deadline, your license will get suspended. If you make a timely request for an appeal, your license’s suspension will be stayed for an extra 90 days. Alternatively, if you win your criminal DWI case, your license will be reinstated.
Even if all of the above fails, you may still maintain your driving privileges—albeit in limited form. If you show “good cause” that you need to drive to keep your job, to get your kids to school, to do grocery shopping, to attend religious service, or to receive necessary medical treatment, DPS may issue you a so-called occupational driver’s license, which is generally valid for one year and allows you to drive during a 12-hour period each day.
Your occupational driver’s license may be subject to additional restrictions, such as using an ignition interlock device that randomly checks your blood alcohol level while you drive, or following a substance abuse treatment program. Furthermore, you cannot apply for an occupational license if you’ve had one within the past 10 years.
To successfully apply for an occupational license, you must:
- Visit the court of the county where the suspension was ordered and file a petition.
- Get a signed court order, which also functions as a 30-day temporary license.
- Provide DPS with the court petition and court order, a financial responsibility insurance certificate (form SR22) from your insurance company, a $125 license reinstatement fee plus the $10 occupational license fee.
Alternatively, you may be able to apply for a hardship driver’s license, which is available under the following circumstances:
- Your inability to drive will result in an unusual economic hardship for your family, making the issuance of the hardship license a necessity.
- You need a hardship license because of the illness of one of your family members.
- The hardship license is necessary for you to pursue a vocational educational program requiring that you have a driver’s license.
At this stage, it may still be helpful to have a lawyer working on your case. Not only will your lawyer be able to help you with the paperwork, he or she can help you make a compelling argument that you need the occupational or hardship license to pursue important life activities.
How Do I Reinstate my License?
Obtaining the reinstatement of your driver’s license after a DWI will not be a possibility until your suspension period is over. You may need to provide proof that you completed a substance abuse or driver’s education program, if it was ordered as a condition of your probation. All you need to do is pay the $125 reinstatement fee to DPS, and provide them your suspension compliance documents and your financial responsibility insurance certificate (form SR22).
Driving while your license is suspended is a serious offense, so you should avoid the temptation to use your car until you’ve reinstated your license. If you get caught, you could face misdemeanor charges involving 3 to 60 days of jail time and fines ranging between $100 and $500.
Dealing with the suspension of your license is an added stress to the challenge of facing your criminal DWI charges. But Attorney Ned Barnett can put his extensive knowledge of both criminal law and administrative procedures to use in your case and help you get the best outcome possible. Attorney Barnett has helped dozens of his clients maintain their driving privileges by quickly and effectively representing them at their administrative license revocation hearings.