Drivers' license suspension is perhaps the worst collateral effect of a DWI. However, contrary to popular myth, arrest-related drivers' license suspension is neither automatic nor mandatory. That's assuming the defendant requests an Administrative License Revocation hearing. At the ALR hearing, the state must prove specific facts to impose license suspension.
Lack of discovery is also an issue in DWIs. That's especially true in closed-file jurisdictions. Prosecutors in these jurisdictions do not allow Weatherford defense attorneys to review the evidence in these cases. The ALR hearing addresses this deficiency as well.
What Happens at the ALR
Many defendants unintentionally lose their right to request a hearing. The request form is buried in all the arrest paperwork the defendant receives. If the proper request form is not filed within fifteen days, the full DWI arrest license suspension period goes into effect. These periods are:
90 days for a first chemical test failure,
180 days for a first refusal,
One year for a subsequent failure, and
Two years for a subsequent refusal.
Note that the defendant's drivers' license does not automatically become valid again once the suspension ends. The defendant must actively request reinstatement, pay a reinstatement fee, provide proof of insurance, and perhaps jump through other hoops.
At the hearing, the state must prove officers had probable cause to request a chemical sample. Probable cause is a rather low standard. So, it is difficult, but not impossible to win a hearing on this point.
For example, officers sometimes demand chemical samples without first administering field sobriety tests. The defendant's physical symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes and an odor of alcohol, may not be sufficient for probable cause.
Other times, if the officer does not show up, there may be no evidence whatsoever. The Administrative Law Judge might reset the case in these situations to give the officer a chance to appear. Then again, the ALJ might call the case at that time.
Benefits of an ALR Hearing
If the probable cause evidence is weak, either because the officer does not appear or due to the lack of field tests, the ALJ may reduce the suspension period or not suspend the defendant's license at all. The worst possible outcome is that the ALJ imposes the maximum suspension length, and that would have happened anyway. So, there is no risk.
Additionally, the ALR hearing gives an attorney the chance to cross-examine the police officer under oath. Assuming it is available at all, this kind of discovery usually costs hundreds of dollars. If the officer's testimony at trial is at all inconsistent with the ALR testimony, even on a rather minor point, that prior testimony can be used to undermine the officer's credibility.
Aggressive representation at the ALR hearing often helps bring about a successful outcome in a DWI defense. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. Home and jail visits are available.