If you have been arrested and charged with a first-time DWI, one of the things that may be most concerning is the potential of losing your Texas driving privileges. Under Texas law, a suspension is possible for a first-time DWI as a result of either the criminal case, or an Administrative License Revocation case that is a part of most DWIs. Fortunately, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help maximize your chances of avoiding a driver’s license suspension after a first-time DWI arrest.
Administrative License Revocation and First-Time DWIs
Under Texas law, if you are arrested for DWI or boating while intoxicated, you will typically be facing a suspension of your Texas driving privileges as a result of a proceeding known as an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) case. Any suspension from an ALR case is totally separate from a potential suspension in the criminal case (which is addressed below).
After being arrested for a DWI-related offense, you will be asked to give a specimen of your breath or blood that will be analyzed for the presence of alcohol or a controlled substance. If you agree to give a breath or blood sample, and the result comes back higher than .08, then you will be facing a 90-day suspension of your Texas driving privileges. If you refuse to give a specimen, then you will be facing a 180-day suspension.
These suspensions are not automatic. If you are arrested and gave a breath sample over .08 or are alleged to have refused to give a sample, then you must request a hearing to fight the suspension of your driver’s license within 15 days. If you agreed to give a blood sample (rather than agreeing to a breath sample), then it will not be known at the time of your arrest what your blood results are, and so you will not have a hearing pending unless DPS notifies you later on that your result was over the legal limit. Although it is preferable that an experienced attorney make the request for the ALR hearing, a hearing request can be made online (https://www.dps.texas.gov/apps/dps/Forms/Vue/DLD-ALR-HEARING) or by calling 1-800-394-9913, if you are close to the 15 day deadline.
Once the hearing has been requested, your license will remain valid unless it is suspended at the hearing. In the Houston area, if a request for a hearing is made on time, the hearing will usually take place within two or three months. A defendant does not have to appear at the hearing (in fact, it is probably a bad idea for a defendant to appear). Under the rules of the ALR hearing, the defense must subpoena one or two officers to the hearing. The main issues at the hearing will be whether there was a valid reason for a traffic stop or detention, whether a police officer has sufficient evidence to arrest a person for DWI, and whether the person gave a sample higher than the legal limit or refused. In the Houston area, experienced DWI lawyers win most ALR hearing for first-time DWIs (although every case is different).
First-Time DWI Suspension After a Conviction
In the criminal case, if you are found guilty of a first-time DWI, then the potential suspension you are facing, if any, will depend on whether you are sentenced to probation or jail.
If you are sentenced to probation after a DWI first conviction, and are ordered to take a DWI Education class, then you will typically not face a driver’s license suspension, if the class is completed. The DWI Education class can only be completed to avoid a driver’s license suspension if ordered as a condition or probation.
If you are assessed jail time (including a “time served” where your jail sentence is the time that you were already in jail), then you will face a mandatory driver’s license suspension from 90 days to one year. For many defendants, this is the main drawback in taking a time-served over a sentence of probation, if you are having to choose between the two. If your license was already suspended as a result of the ALR suspension, the judge can agree to give you credit for the ALR suspension, so you are not facing an additional suspension, but this is in the judge’s discretion.
Occupational Driver’s License and First-Time DWI Driver’s License Suspensions
If your license is suspended as a result of an ALR case or a DWI conviction after an arrest for DWI, the good news is that you will immediately be eligible for an Occupational Driver’s License (ODL). Once it is issued, an ODL will allow you to drive to work and to perform necessary household business.
Unlike some other offenders, those charged with DWI 1st are not required to wait before applying for an occupational driver’s license. An attorney will need to prepare a petition and order and file it with the county clerk. In the Houston area, other requirements will vary depending on the county and judge, but many judges require an ignition interlock device or a special insurance policy known as an SR-22. With respect to your driving privileges, having to obtain an ODL is the worst possible scenario but because an ODL can easily be obtained, this should not be a big source or worry. In the Houston area, it is usually possible to obtain an ODL within 10 days or so.
Of course, the goal in a first-time DWI should be to get the charges dismissed, or to obtain an acquittal at trial so you are not facing a driver’s license conviction after a conviction. But having an experienced DWI attorney on your side is critical to help you navigate potential driver’s license suspensions. As you can probably see from this article, the laws relating to DWIs can be highly specialized.
Attorney Jose Ceja has handled thousands of DWIs throughout the Greater Houston area and regularly obtain excellent results for his clients. If you are arrested for DWI, call Ceja Law Firm for a free consultation.