Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in Texas is a serious offense that can lead to significant consequences, including driver’s license suspension.
If a driver is arrested for DWI, their driver’s license can be suspended through administrative actions by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) or as a result of criminal court proceedings.
Driver’s license suspensions can have far-reaching consequences beyond the mere inability to operate a vehicle. One of the most immediate impacts is the disruption of daily life and routines.
You may struggle to commute to work, school, or appointments without a valid license, leading to potential job loss, missed educational opportunities, and compromised healthcare access.
Texas DWI License Suspension Statute
The statute governing DWI license suspensions in Texas is primarily outlined in Chapter 524 of the Texas Transportation Code.
This statute empowers the Texas DPS to administratively suspend your driver’s license if you are arrested for DWI under certain conditions.
If a driver refuses to submit to a blood or breath test or has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, the DPS can initiate an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) process.
Chapter 524 also addresses the license suspension penalties imposed by the criminal court system after a DWI conviction.
Texas Driver’s License Suspension
The Texas DWI license suspension process is a multifaceted legal procedure involving administrative and criminal actions.
When a driver is arrested for DWI in Texas, their driving privileges can be suspended through two distinct channels: the ALR process and the criminal court system.
The Texas DPS initiates the ALR process that is independent of the pending criminal charges.
Suppose you are arrested for DWI and either refuse to take a blood or breath test, or you take the test and register a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
Then, the DPS can move to suspend your driver’s license. The process unfolds as follows:
- Notice of Suspension: The DPS issues a Notice of Suspension, informing you of your impending license suspension and providing a limited window (usually 15 days) to request an ALR hearing challenging the suspension.
- ALR Hearing: If the driver requests an ALR hearing, it occurs before an administrative law judge. The purpose of the hearing is to assess the validity of the license suspension and the circumstances of the DWI arrest.
If the driver doesn’t request a hearing or loses the hearing, their license is subject to suspension.
Texas Criminal Court Process for DWI
On the other hand, the criminal court process involves the legal penalties associated with a DWI conviction—and this includes license suspension.
If you are found guilty of DWI in criminal court, the court can impose additional license suspension penalties.
The length of license suspension varies depending on factors such as your BAC, previous DWI convictions, and whether there were any aggravating circumstances during the arrest.
To reinstate a suspended license, you must fulfill specific requirements, including completing mandatory DWI education programs, paying fines, and potentially installing an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.
It’s important to understand that the ALR process and criminal court proceedings are separate and distinct.
Successfully challenging a license suspension through the ALR process does not automatically prevent the suspension handed out as part of your sentence in criminal court.
How Long Is Your License Suspended After a Texas DWI?
The extent of penalties can vary based on several factors, including the number of prior offenses and other circumstances.
However, the maximum fine and the maximum license suspension period for a 1st offense DWI is $2,000 and up to two years.
But remember, laws can change, so it’s always a good idea to seek advice and representation from a legal professional.
The general guidelines for the maximum penalties for DWI in Texas are as follows:
- First DWI offense. A fine of up to $2,000 and a license suspension of 90 days up to 1 year. If you refused to take the breath or blood test, the suspension could extend to 2 years.
- Second DWI offense. A fine of up to $4,000 and a license suspension of 180 days up to 2 years.
- Third (or more) DWI offense. A fine of up to $10,000 and a license suspension of 180 days to 2 years.
- DWI with a child passenger (under 15 years old). A fine of up to $10,000 and a license suspension of 180 days.
Given the complexities of the Texas DWI license suspension process, seeking legal representation is highly recommended.
An experienced DWI attorney can provide guidance on navigating both the ALR process and criminal court proceedings, potentially mitigating the impact of DWI charges and working toward minimizing license suspension consequences.
Reinstatement of Driving Privileges
Reinstating driving privileges involves several steps and requirements. Keep in mind that the process can vary depending on the specifics of your case, any prior convictions, and potential changes in the law.
Some ways to reinstate your license include the following:
- Complete your suspension period. Before you can reinstate your license, you must finish the suspension period imposed by the court or the administrative process.
- Complete mandatory programs. In Texas, individuals convicted of DWI are often required to complete a mandatory DWI education program or a Drug and Alcohol Driving Awareness Program (DADAP). You must complete the appropriate program to be eligible for reinstatement.
- Pay reinstatement fees. You must pay reinstatement fees to the Texas DPS. The amount varies depending on the offense and whether it’s a first-time or subsequent conviction.
- Obtain SR-22 insurance. You might need to obtain an SR-22 certificate, a form of high-risk insurance coverage. The SR-22 must be maintained for a specified period to demonstrate financial responsibility.
- Install ignition interlock device (if required). Depending on the circumstances of your case, the court might order you to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. This device measures your BAC before allowing the vehicle to start.
- Attend court-ordered hearings or appearances. If your case involves court hearings or appearances, attend them as required.
- Comply with probation requirements. If you were placed on probation as part of your DWI sentence, ensure you fulfill all the conditions the judge imposed at sentencing.
- Apply for reinstatement. Once you’ve completed all the necessary steps, you can apply for the reinstatement of your driving privileges. This usually involves submitting required documents and fees to the DPS.
Remember that laws and requirements can change, so it’s essential to consult with your attorney for the most up-to-date information on reinstating your driving privileges.
Texas DWI Defenses
The best way to avoid a driver’s license suspension after a Texas DWI is to present a compelling defense.
Defending against a DWI charge in Texas involves various strategies to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and demonstrate reasonable doubt.
Common DWI defenses include the following:
- Questioning the validity of field sobriety tests due to factors like medical conditions or improper administration;
- Challenging the accuracy of the breathalyzer or blood tests based on calibration issues or improper handling of samples; and
- Questioning the legality of the traffic stop or arrest.
Inaccurate observations by law enforcement officers, inadequate Miranda warnings, or violations of your constitutional rights can also be effective defense angles.
Additionally, medical conditions, certain medications, or even exposure to substances unrelated to alcohol might lead to falsely elevated BAC readings.
Collaborating with an experienced DWI defense attorney is crucial, as they can tailor a defense strategy based on your unique circumstances and protect your rights.
Are You Hoping to Avoid a Driver’s License Suspension?
If you were recently arrested for a DWI and fear a DWI license suspension in Texas, you should reach out to a dedicated criminal defense attorney.
At the Austin Hagee Law Firm, we have extensive experience guiding clients through the DWI process in pursuit of the best possible result.
To schedule a free consultation, call 210-934-9768. You can also connect with our attorneys through our online contact form.