Can You Challenge an Administrative Suspension of Your Driver’s License Following a DWI Arrest?

August 14th, 2019 by Tad Nelson in DWI

When you are arrested for drunk driving in Texas, you face not only potential criminal prosecution but also the administrative suspension of your driver’s license. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) oversees the latter. If the DPS notifies you of a suspension, you do have the right to a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), and possibly further appeals through the court system, to try and get your license back.

Appeals Court Reinstates License Suspension, Finds Arresting Officer Had “Reasonable Suspicion” of Drunk Driving

Keep in mind, however, that even if a judge agrees to lift a DPS suspension, the government may appeal and ask a higher court to reinstate it. This is precisely what happened to a Williamson County man in a recent case, Texas Department of Public Safety v. Rabideau. This case began when a local police officer initiated a traffic stop of a driver.

The officer initially planned to simply give the driver a speeding ticket. But upon observing the driver, the officer suspected he was driving while intoxicated. The officer asked the driver to take a blood or breath test. The defendant refused.

Texas is an “implied consent” state with respect to alcohol testing. This means that if a driver is lawfully arrested for DWI, he is presumed to consent to a blood or breath test. In most cases, the driver can still refuse the test–but by doing so faces an automatic suspension of their driver’s license by the DPS. Here, the DPS did just that: It notified the driver that his license was suspended for 180 days.

The driver asked for an administrative hearing to challenge the suspension. At the hearing, the driver argued the officer did not have a “reasonable suspicion” to investigate or detain the driver for DWI. And even if the officer did have such reasonable suspicion, the driver maintained there was an “unreasonable delay in initiating the investigation.”

The ALJ ultimately rejected the driver’s arguments and upheld the DPS suspension. The driver then sought review in a County Court of Law, which ruled in his favor. The DPS then appealed to the Sixth District Court of Appeals, which reinstated the ALJ’s original decision.

As the Sixth District explained, the ALJ’s decision was supported by “substantial evidence.” In the context of a DWI stop, such evidence includes the arresting officer’s testimony that the driver was speeding, that he had “bloodshot eyes,” and that his breath smelled of alcohol. The driver also admitted to the officer during the stop that “he had taken pain medication and muscle relaxers.” Based on this “combination of facts,” the appeals court said the officer was justified in conducting a DWI investigation and requesting the driver submit to a blood or breath test.

Speak with a Galveston or League City DWI Lawyer Today

If you are questioned by a police officer during a traffic stop, never admit to anything that can be used against you in an administrative hearing (or criminal proceeding). Your best bet for protecting your license is to say nothing at the scene and contact a qualified Houston DWI defense attorney as soon as possible. Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 280-0100  today if you require immediate assistance.

 

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