Officer taking driver's license from driver

How can I avoid a driver’s license suspension after a DWI arrest?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

One major consequence of a DWI is a potential driver’s license suspension. Even if you do not have a commercial driver’s license, being able to drive is essential for people in the Greater Houston area to be able to go to school, work or even the grocery store. The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood that your driver’s license will be suspended after a DWI arrest. A high percentage of people arrested for DWI manage to avoid a driver’s license suspension and this post explains the steps you should take to minimize your chances of having your license suspended. 

If you have been arrested for DWI in Texas, you will typically face a criminal case and a separate administrative case against your driver’s license. The administrative case is known as an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) case. When you are arrested for DWI, police officers are trained to ask for a sample of your breath or blood to test your blood alcohol level. If you agree to a test, but give a result higher than a .08, then your license will be subject to a 90-day suspension that is totally separate from your DWI case. If you refuse to give a sample, your driver’s license will be subject to a 180-day suspension. Whether you gave a sample over the limit or refused to give a sample after a DWI arrest, you will have 15 days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing to fight the suspension of your driver’s license. 

The first step to protecting your driver’s license is hiring attorney who will request your ALR hearing on time. Although it is possible to request your own hearing, it is preferable that an attorney requests the hearing for you, since an experienced DWI attorney will also request documents through the ALR case and understand the best way to build a paper trial to document that a request was timely made. 

If an attorney you talk to after a DWI arrest is not familiar with ALR hearings or how to request an ALR hearing, it is highly unlikely that the attorney has sufficient experience with DWIs to trust with your case. Unless you gave a sample that was below the legal limit (in which case you likely were not charged with DWI), it is highly likely that you will face an ALR hearing after a DWI arrest, so it is critical that your attorney understands how to handle these hearings. ALR hearings are subject to special rules and procedures that can easily result in a mistake (and a driver’s license suspension) by an inexperienced attorney. Most first-time DWI defendants in Texas who have their license suspended, have their license suspended as a result of the ALR hearing, so skilled representation is critical to avoid a driver’s license suspension.

As mentioned, it is preferable that an experienced DWI attorney request your driver’s license hearing. However, if you are close the 15-day deadline, you can also make the request for a hearing yourself. A request for a hearing can be made online at this link, by calling 1-800-394-9913 or by sending a fax to 512-424-2650. Although sending a fax (and saving the confirmation) is the preferable method since it creates proof that a request was made, you must be careful to include all of the necessary information (you can look at the online link to see what information is requested). Again, it is preferable that a DWI attorney handle this for you to avoid the potential for a mistake

In most cases, an ALR case will be resolved before the DWI is finished. In the event that you face an ALR suspension, the good news is that you will likely be eligible for an occupational driver’s license that will allow you to drive to work, school or to the grocery store. In most cases, an occupational license can be obtained quickly from the court handling a DWI, minimizing the time that you are not able to drive. 

The other possibility for a driver’s license suspension after a DWI arrest comes from the criminal case itself. Under Texas law, a DWI conviction comes with a driver’s license suspension. The length of the potential suspension can vary. 

Under Texas Transportation Code 521.344(a)(2)(A), a conviction for a first-time DWI carries a suspension ranging from 90 days to one year. However, if you are assessed probation for a first-time DWI and are required to complete an alcohol awareness course, the Department of Public Safety may not suspend your license unless you fail to complete the course. Additionally, if you lose a trial, a jury can actually recommend that not revoke your driver’s license. 

The best way to avoid a license suspension as a result of a DWI conviction is to do everything possible to get your case dismissed or go to trial and secure an acquittal. Hiring a knowledgeable, experienced DWI attorney can help you maximize you chances of avoiding a conviction. If a conviction cannot be avoided, the good news is that, as noted above, a suspension after a DWI conviction will not take effect if you are required to complete an alcohol awareness class (this is a standard term of DWI probations in Texas). In fact, generally the only first-time DWI defendants who receive a suspension after a conviction are those who take a jail sentence or “time served” conviction (where the court assesses your sentence at the time you were already in jail). 

There are ways that an experienced DWI attorney can minimize a driver’s license suspension after a DWI conviction. For example, if your license is suspended as a result of the conviction, under Texas Transportation Code 521.344, a judge can delay the start of the conviction for up to 30 days, which can allow time to file for an occupational driver’s license to be obtained. Additionally, if your license was already suspended after an ALR hearing, a judge can give you credit for that suspension after a DWI conviction. 

An experienced DWI lawyer can help protect your license to minimize disruptions to your life after a DWI arrest. Driver’s license issues after a DWI can be complicated and there is a high possibility for error so it pays to hire knowledgeable counsel to protect your driver’s license and your record. Attorney Jose Ceja has helped hundreds of DWI defendants protect their driving privileges throughout the Greater Houston area. If you have been arrested for DWI anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today.

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.
Posted in DWI