Do I Automatically Lose My License After a DWI?

A drunk driving charge carries serious legal and financial consequences. First and foremost, just being arrested on suspicion of DWI can lead to a suspension of your driver’s license. But this does not necessarily mean that you will be unable to drive to work or school.

Administrative License Revocation

DWI is a criminal offense under the Texas Penal Code. A first offense is charged as a Class B misdemeanor. This carries a maximum possible sentence of 180 days in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a one-year suspension of your driver’s license.

But even if you are not convicted or formally charged with criminal DWI, the arrest itself may trigger a separate civil proceeding known as an Administrative License Revocation (ALR). A Texas law enforcement officer may immediately take a driver’s license under either of the following scenarios:

  • The driver takes a chemical test that shows his or her blood-alcohol level is over 0.08 percent, the legal limit in Texas; or
  • The driver refuses to take such a test after the officer established “probable cause” to suspect DWI.

The latter refers to Texas’ “implied consent” law. By accepting a Texas driver’s license, you are deemed to consent to a chemical test when requested by a police officer. Under the Constitution, you still have the right to actually refuse a breath test or blood test (unless the police first obtain a search warrant), however, that refusal can be used against you in court. This carries the civil penalty of automatic license suspension unless you request a hearing within 15 days, regardless of whether you are later convicted of any crime. In fact, your license will be suspended for longer if you refuse a test than if you take it and fail.

You have a right to contest

Can I Still Drive to Work?

Although the police will take your license if you fail or refuse a chemical test, that does not mean you are left stranded. The police will give you a temporary driving permit.  This permit acts as your regular driver’s license for 40 days. You then have 15 days to challenge the ALR by filing a request for a hearing with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Any license suspension is stayed until the hearing is complete and the judge issues a decision.

But even if the hearing goes against you and the suspension is upheld, you can still apply for an “occupational license.” This is a restricted license that will allow you to continue driving for work, school, or “essential household duties.” Obtaining an occupational license requires a separate proceeding before a local judge or justice of the peace. If the court determines you are eligible, it will order the DPS to issue the occupational license.

Get Help From a Denton DWI Defense Attorney

Dealing with a DWI is never a simple matter. In addition to staying out of jail you will need help staying on the road. An experienced Denton County DWI defense attorney can guide you through the complex web of administrative and judicial proceedings. Call Brent D. Bowen, Attorney at Law, at (940) 222-2488 if you have been charged with drunk driving and need to consult with a lawyer right away.