To preserve your right to drive in Texas, you must request a hearing within 15 days of the date you were served with a Notice of Suspension. In most cases, this is the day of your arrest. If you timely requested a hearing to contest your license suspension, you will be able to continue to drive unless an Administrative Law Judge rules against you and authorizes the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to suspend your driver's license. If you lose at the hearing, your driver's license will be suspended and you cannot drive unless you obtain an occupational driver's license. In some cases, the suspension may be stayed (temporarily prevented) by the filing of an appeal. It is our opinion you should always request a hearing. Information can be learned, through the Administrative License Revocation process, which can be vital to your defense of your DWI. If your license is suspended at the hearing, you may be able to secure an occupational license to drive.
Contrary to what you will have been led to believe by the officer who arrested you, suspension of your driver's license is not automatic. There are a number of ways to potentially avoid and prevent a suspension. There are a variety of circumstances when a suspension does not occur. Of course, if you fail to request a hearing by the 15th day after your arrest, suspension will be automatic.
At the ALR hearing, the Texas Department of Public Safety must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) there was a sufficient legal basis to initially stop you (That is, reasonable suspicion to believe you had committed or were committing a crime); (2) there was sufficient legal basis to arrest you for DWI (that is, probable cause to believe you were DWI; and (3) either that you were validly offered and refused to provide a specimen for a breath or blood test or that you provided a specimen of breath or blood and the result exceeded the legal limit of .08 at the time you were driving.
These issues provide a variety of ways potentially to prevent you from losing your driver's license. Since the ALR process also includes some discovery and may involve a hearing at which one or more officers will testify, your lawyer may learn things that will help win both the ALR proceeding and the DWI case.
Any person or lawyer who tells you that you should not worry about or pursue the ALR process is likely not knowledgeable about or competent at defending DWI cases.
Your driver's license is subject to suspension if you refuse to submit to a breath or blood test when requested by an officer following an arrest for DWI or a DWI related offense. Your license is not automatically suspended. You have a right to request a hearing and, in the event you fail to request a hearing, your license will be suspended. Always request the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing. Your lawyer should do this for you, as well as request the discovery of any and all documents the Department of Public Safety (DPS) prosecutors will rely on in attempting to suspend your license. To preserve your right to drive in Texas, you must request a hearing within 15 days of the date you were served with a Notice of Suspension. In most cases this is the day of your arrest. If you timely requested a hearing to contest your license suspension, you will be able to continue to drive until an Administrative Law Judge rules against you and suspends your driver's license. If you lose the hearing, your driver's license will be suspended and you cannot drive unless you obtain an essential needs (occupational) driver's license. You can request either an in-person hearing or a telephonic hearing. In many cases it is advisable to request an in-person hearing and issue a request for a subpoena for the arresting officer's presence in court. Additionally, requests for subpoenas can be filed for other officers involved in the case. This can give you a preview of your DWI trial, a rarity in criminal cases. At other times, it may be more prudent to request a telephonic hearing and forego the appearance of the officers in the ALR court. This is a very important decision and one that should certainly be discussed with your lawyer. These hearings are very technical and victory, more times than not, hinges on your lawyer's ability to identify and present a technical mistake made by the officer or by the DPS prosecutor.
In the event your license is suspended, you may be eligible to receive an essential needs (occupational) driver's license. This can be obtained by filing a petition in civil court. It is much like filing a civil lawsuit seeking to have a court make a ruling. Once the petition is filed, the case is put on a civil docket and a court date is set. You will accompany your lawyer to civil court and testify as to certain statutory elements, which must be shown in order to secure the license. The judge will set the hours you may drive during each day. The total number of hours the judge may allow you to drive during each day is 12, but more often than not, the judge limits the hours to the hours necessary for getting to and from work, school, grocery store, et cetera. Once the judge signs the order, you may drive with a certified copy of the written order for a period of 30 days. You will be required to mail a copy of the order along with an SR-22 form your insurance carrier to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), in Austin, along with the required fees. DPS will thereafter issue an Essential Needs (or occupational) License and mail it to you.