You will lose your driver’s license if the prosecution finds you guilty of violating Texas’ DWI laws. In most instances, you will lose your license for between 90 days to two years, depending on the number of prior DWI offenses. Restoring your license after a DWI involves several steps, which are simpler when working with an experienced DWI attorney. Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer has helped many reinstate their licenses after a DWI offense.
Texas DWI License Suspension Overview
Driver’s license suspension is a common consequence of a DWI arrest or conviction in Texas. It will inconvenience you by making it harder to go to work, take your children to school, or drive for other activities. At best, you will be dependent on others to drive you to your destinations or have to rely on public transport.
Usually, you can lose your license as an administrative or criminal consequence of violating Texas’ DWI laws. An arrest for a DWI triggers an administrative license suspension, which occurs forty days after the police arrest you for a DWI violation.
You can avoid an administrative license suspension by requesting an administrative hearing within 20 days of your arrest or 15 days of receiving a notice of suspension. Other factors that trigger an administrative license suspension in Texas include:
- You are under 21 and register a detectable alcohol level
- You refuse or fail to complete a DWI test
- You register a BAC of 0.08% or higher while driving a non-commercial vehicle.
- You register a BAC of 0.08% or higher while driving a non-commercial vehicle.
An administrative license suspension for a DWI can last between 180 days to three years. The presence of aggravating circumstances such as multiple DWI on a commercial vehicle could lead to a lifetime loss of your driver's license.
A driver’s license suspension due to a DWI criminal conviction results from the criminal proceeding. It is separate from the administrative process. Therefore, the court might still order the suspension of your driver’s license even if you won the administrative hearing.
During the administrative hearing, the state will present evidence that supports the suspension of your driver’s license. Scheduling an ALR hearing is always advisable as it might even save your license from a suspension, especially if your criminal proceedings end before the ALR hearings.
At an ALR hearing, the presiding administrative judge considers the evidence presented and decides whether to suspend your driving privileges. The state usually has the burden of proof.
Unlike in criminal cases, the standard of proof is lower in an ALR hearing where all the DPS has to prove is that you most likely violated the law (preponderance of the evidence).
You can appeal an adverse decision within thirty days of the decision. If your appeal is removed, the DPS will stay your suspension for 90 days until it gives its final decision.
Reinstating Your License After a DWI
You must ask the state to reinstate your driver’s license once the suspension period elapses. You are required to submit the relevant paperwork and pay the fees to have your license reinstated. If you are unsure about your eligibility for license reinstatement, you can check online through the Texas Department of Public Safety website.
You should log into the website using your ID number or driver's license number, birth date, and the last four digits of your SSN. Once on the website, you will see the status of your license suspension and all the requirements you must meet to reinstate your license. If you are not eligible yet, keep tracking the website or consider applying for an occupational license.
Once you confirm that you are eligible for license reinstatement, you need to prepare the compliance documents. The requirements for reinstating a suspended license in Texas include:
- A certificate of completion of the court-ordered drug or alcohol education program
- Payment of a reinstatement fee and other applicable administrative fees Filled-out forms
- A copy of your suspension notice
- An SR-22 certificate of proof of financial responsibility from your auto insurance provider
You can complete payment and submission of the required paperwork online through the Department of Public Safety website. Alternatively, you can send your application for reinstatement and other documents through mail, fax, or email (you must convert all documents to PDF format if you submit them online. Remember to include your full name, date of birth, and driver's license number on every document you submit. The DPS takes about 21 business days to process your request for license reinstatement.
An SR-22 certificate is one of the requirements before you can reinstate your driver's license after a DWI. An SR-22 certificate or proof of financial responsibility helps the Department of Public Safety monitor DWI offenders for compliance with Texas’ auto liability requirements.
The steps for obtaining an SR-22 certificate include:
- Contact an authorized insurer (you can consult your current insurer to determine whether they offer an SR-22 certificate).
- Pay the required SR-22 fee, which varies depending on the insurance provider.
- Once you complete the application for the coverage, you can request your insurer to file the certificate directly with the Texas Department of Public Safety, or you can mail or deliver it to the DPS.
People who do not own a vehicle can file for a non-owner SR-22 which is also cheaper. Note that a DWI and the requirement for an SR-22 certificate typically lead to higher auto liability insurance. The higher rates are a result of drunk driving, which insurers consider a high-risk behavior.
SR-22 is not a different form of insurance; it is a certificate that proves you have the minimum auto liability coverage as follows:
- At least $30,000 of bodily injury coverage for every person injured in an accident
- $60,000 bodily coverage for every accident
- $25,000 property damage coverage for each accident
A Note on Surcharges
A DWI surcharge refers to an administrative penalty that you pay to the Texas Department of Public Safety for a DWI conviction. You pay surcharges for up to three years after a DWI conviction or after a blood/breath test that shows a BAC of 0.6% or higher. Surcharges are typically expensive. You could end up paying thousands of dollars at the end of the suspension period before you reinstate your driver's license.
Most people convicted of a DWI find it hard to pay their surcharges, consequently preventing them from reinstating their licenses even after the suspension period expired.
Texas established surcharges under the driver’s responsibility program as a penalty to discourage drunk driving. However, these surcharges imposed an additional burden on people convicted for DWI offenses, leading the state to repeal the Driver’s Responsibility Program in 2019.
The bill to repeal the program took effect in September 2019, eliminating all past, current, and future surcharges. Therefore, you can reinstate your license if unpaid surcharges were the factor making you ineligible for license reinstatement.
An occupational license or a provisional license allows certain people convicted for a DWI offense to continue driving for essential activities like essential household duties, work, or school-related activities.
Filing for a provisional driver’s license in Texas allows you to drive to the most critical activities while your license is suspended. You must file a petition with the local court to obtain a provisional license.
The forms you need to file, and the procedures to follow will vary depending on the jurisdiction. You will need to file several forms and submit:
- A certified copy of your driving history which includes any driving offenses you have committed, previous arrests and convictions, and other license suspensions or revocations
- An SR-22 certificate from an insurance provider
- A letter from your employer indicating your position and the hours you should drive
- A letter indicating the reasons why you are applying for a provisional license. You must include your schedule and the hours and locations you need to drive to
The judge at the presiding court will review your request and issue a court order if he or she approves that request. You must then submit the court order to the Texas Department of Public Safety to be issued with the official provisional license. You must also pay a reinstatement fee to the DPS to get your provisional license.
While an occupational license allows you to drive to work, you cannot operate a commercial motor vehicle with this license. Other limitations of an occupational license include:
- You can drive for a set number of hours.
- You have to drive only to the locations authorized
Note that, if the judge grants your petition and you receive a provisional license, you must:
- Keep the certified copy of the court order at all times when driving
- Obtain alcohol-dependence counseling from an approved facility
- Install an IID in your vehicle
You are not guaranteed a provisional license; the judge may deny your request or order a waiting period of one or more of these factors makes you ineligible for a provisional license:
- You must wait 90 days if you have another drug or alcohol-related license suspension.
- You must wait 180 days if your license was suspended due to a conviction for intoxication.
- You must wait a year if you have two administrative license suspensions on your record.
- You requested the license for a commercial vehicle
An occupational license is valid for a year, and you cannot obtain the license for more than two years.
Reinstating a Commercial Driver’s License in Texas
All 50 states have stricter DUI rules for commercial drivers. In Texas, you are guilty of a DWI if you drive a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher. During your arrest, the arresting officer will issue a notice of suspension.
Note that the Texas Department of Safety will also suspend your CDL driver’s license if you were driving a non-commercial motor vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol or a combination of substances. While you need a CDL to operate a commercial vehicle, the DPS considers your driving record as one; therefore, offenses you commit on a non-commercial vehicle also affect your commercial driver's license.
You have 20 days from the day you receive this notice to request a hearing if you wish to contest your CDL suspension. If your license is suspended under the administrative license suspension program, you must request this hearing within 15 days.
Most people do not understand the need for a hearing or their right to request one. Therefore, you must contact an attorney as soon as you are arrested for a DWI offense. An experienced DWI attorney understands the legal process and steps you can take to prevent a license suspension and the best defenses for the hearing.
The Texas DPS may take up to 120 days to schedule a hearing. You are also required to notify your employer of any conviction within 30 days.
You have the chance to appeal the judge’s decision after an administrative hearing. You have thirty days after you receive your suspension letter to file an appeal by sending a stamped and certified appeal petition to:
Department of Public Safety
Enforcement and Compliance Service
P.O. Box 4087
Austin, TX 78773-0320
If the court grants your appeal, the DPS removes your license suspension for 90 days.
The suspension periods for a commercial driver’s license are as follows:
- At least one year for an alcohol-related offense
- At least three years for an alcohol-related offense if you were transporting hazardous materials
- A lifetime for a second alcohol-related offense
In addition to Texas' suspension laws, you may be subjected to other federal suspensions, disqualifications, and fines, depending on the offense.
Before you apply for reinstatement, you should check your driver’s license status on the Texas DPS website using:
- Your ID or driver’s license number
- Date of birth
- The last four digits of your SSN
Once you enter these details, you will be shown the fees you owe, your CDL status, and the items you must submit to reinstate your license.
Usually, most states will suspend your commercial driver’s license for life for a second DWI offense. However, in such cases, you might reinstate your license after ten years if you voluntarily enter and successfully complete an appropriate DPS-approved program. You must also pass the required vision and skills tests before the DPS can approve your CDL license reinstatement after a lifetime disqualification. The DPS will review your driving record before the department can approve your request for a commercial driver’s license.
Reinstatement for a commercial license suspended for life is applicable for certain offenses as follows:
- A conviction for being under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
- Operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or more
- Chemical test refusal (commercial drivers must submit a chemical test if arrested for a DWI offense under the Texas Implied Consent laws).
- Leaving an accident scene
- Using a commercial motor vehicle in the commission of a felony (you are ineligible for license reinstatement if you committed a felony involving manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance using a commercial motor vehicle).
Do You Need An Attorney
Reinstating your license might sound simple on paper, but it never hurts to ask for help from an experienced attorney. When would you need an attorney to reinstate your license after a DWI?
- Immediately after the arrest, you should call an attorney to help you with your case. The DWI attorney will request an administrative hearing within the specified timeline to prevent an administrative license suspension. In addition to scheduling the hearing, a DWI attorney represents you during the hearing. He or she will present defenses to the accusations you are facing, such as refusal to submit a breath test. Depending on the case's outcome, your attorney might file an appeal on your behalf, which further keeps your license from a suspension.
- The DWI defense process also matters in keeping your license from being suspended. If the judge acquits you at trial or the prosecution dismisses your case, then the DPS or court will not suspend your license.
- You will also need to work with an attorney if you want an occupational license after a DWI offense. The attorney will guide you through the application process.
- Finally, your attorney will guide you when you need to reinstate your license after a DWI conviction. You can consult an attorney about the steps you should take to reinstate your license, and your rights and responsibilities during the suspension period.
Working with the right attorney can save you time, money, and effort by helping you reduce the mistakes you may make during the reinstatement process.
Find a Fort Worth DWI Attorney Near Me
License suspension is one of the consequences of a DWI arrest or conviction in Texas. Luckily, with the help of an experienced DWI attorney, you can take steps that help you avoid a license suspension, including scheduling and attending the administrative license revocation hearing and defending you in court during the criminal proceedings. Even for cases that end up with a license suspension, an attorney will help you with the reinstatement process to help you restore your driving privileges as soon as possible. Contact Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer if you need help with your license reinstatement. You can call us at 817-470-2128 to book a free consultation.