The fines, probation, and other direct consequences of a DWI are bad enough. The collateral consequences, like license suspension and higher insurance rates, can be even worse. There's not much that a lawyer can do about the cost of auto insurance. But there is a lot an attorney can do to protect your license. Aggressive representation at the Administrative License Revocation hearing is part of that process.
The ALR hearing is not easy to win. Since it's not technically a criminal proceeding, many of the normal rules do not apply. For example, the hearing officer usually serves as prosecutor, judge, and jury. Furthermore, defendants could be forced to testify against themselves, since the Fifth Amendment does not apply.
All that being said, the hearing officer must still have substantial evidence to suspend a drivers' license. Additionally, the worst possible outcome is a full-length suspension, and that would have happened hearing or no hearing. So, there is no risk. Moreover, a DWI defense attorney can obtain important information in an ALR hearing that will serve you well once the case goes to court.
Requesting a Hearing
The ALR hearing is not automatic. In fact, defendants only have fifteen days to request such hearings. Otherwise, the full suspension period automatically goes into effect. In Parker County, that period could be between ninety days and two years. The exact length depends on the facts of the case (refusal or failure) as well as the number of prior DWIs, if any.
Appeals notices are usually buried in the arrest paperwork. Officers usually also include these notices in the verbal warnings, but many people understandably miss them.
After you request a hearing, the temporary drivers' license you received will be effective until the hearing date. That date could be as long as six months away. Furthermore, if the officer doesn't show up, it could be reset multiple times.
What Happens at the ALR Hearing?
At the hearing, the prosecutor has the burden of proof to show that the officer had probable cause to request a chemical sample. That's basically the only issue at these hearings. Probable cause is a higher standard of proof than the evidence necessary in civil court. However, probable cause is also a lot lower than beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lack of probable cause usually means something like pulling over the wrong vehicle. That happens quite often, since officers only have a fleeting glimpse of cars travelling together in clusters. Other times, especially during high-enforcement periods, the state's evidence is incredibly weak.
Basically, the hearing officer must only be satisfied that the officer has a good reason for requesting the sample. Most ALR hearing officers are paid DPS employees, so it's easy to guess which side they favor.
Even if there is such evidence, a defense attorney gets to cross-examine the officer under oath and on the record. Depositions like these may cost hundreds of dollars, or even more, in another setting. This free discovery is especially vital in closed-file jurisdictions that limit pretrial disclosure in DWI cases. Moreover, if the officers change their stories later, attorneys can use the ALR testimony to impeach these witnesses at trial.
The ALR hearing is an important component of a DWI trial. Plus, the outcome might be better than you think. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle cases in Tarrant County, Parker County and other nearby jurisdictions.