DWI has sweeping consequences. Sometimes, they do not affect all arrestees. For example, prosecutors normally only file DWI-related child endangerment charges if there was a biological, adopted, or step child in the vehicle with the defendant at the time.
But drivers' license suspension affects all DWI defendants. The state will make such a move whether the defendant blows into a Breathalyzer and has a BAC over the legal limit, or if the defendant refuses to do so.
Technically, the Administrative License Revocation hearing is not part of the DWI criminal law process. But the things that happen at this hearing, regardless of the outcome, can radically affect your defense to these charges.
What to Expect
The ALR hearing is not a criminal procedure. It does not occur in the Tarrant County criminal courts building. Instead, it is a streamlined administrative process.
In most cases, the ALR hearing officer, who is a paid DPS employee, serves as prosecutor, judge, and jury. The officer presents the state's case for drivers' license suspension, decides what is fair or foul, and evaluates the evidence.
Additionally, since the ALR hearing is not a criminal matter, many normal Constitutional protections do not apply. For example, defendants may be forced to testify against themselves. Furthermore, there is no right to confront the person accusing you of driving while intoxicated, and defendants do not have the right to review the written charges against them.
Since the deck is stacked in favor of the prosecutor, many people think there is little point in requesting an ALR hearing. But that's a mistake.
To suspend the person's drivers' license, the officer must have had probable cause to request a chemical sample. Typically, officers wait until defendants "fail" field sobriety tests and then request a chemical sample. In these cases, probable cause is pretty clear.
But some officers jump the gun. They request a sample after smelling an odor of alcohol or seeing bloodshot eyes. That circumstantial evidence is much weaker. In some cases, the hearing officer will either reduce the suspension period or throw the matter out altogether.
Moreover, even if the defendant receives the full suspension, the ALR hearing is a success. The arresting officer must testify under oath. In a future pretrial hearing or final trial, a Fort Worth DWI defense attorney could use the ALR testimony for impeachment purposes or to further poke holes in the prosecutor's case.
A deposition like this usually costs hundreds of dollars, if it is available at all. But the ALR hearing is free discovery, and in most cases, "free" is something too good to pass up.
Seemingly insignificant pretrial hearings often mean a great deal. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. Convenient payment plans are available.