The ALR hearing is an often-overlooked components of a successful DWI defense
Texas, like most other jurisdictions, is an implied consent state. When people sign their drivers’ licenses, they implicitly agree to provide chemical samples on demand. Failure to provide a sample in these situations triggers the Administrative License Revocation process. A first refusal could mean a 180-day license suspension. A subsequent refusal is a maximum two year drivers’ license suspension. Furthermore, a sample which shows a BAC above the legal limit also triggers the ALR process. The maximum suspension periods are 90 days for a first failure and one year for a subsequent failure.
Incidentally, the defendant’s drivers’ license does not automatically become valid again when the suspension period ends. Most people must pay a fee, provide proof of insurance, and fulfill a few other administrative requirements.
Department of Public Safety rules give defendants only 15 days after arrest to request an ALR hearing. Without a timely request, the full suspension period automatically takes effect. As outlined below, it is difficult to win ALR hearings. The deck is stacked against defendants. Nevertheless, a Fort Worth DWI lawyer can often successfully resolve these matters. Additionally, regardless of the outcome, an ALR hearing jumpstarts your DWI defense. In other words, even if you lose at the ALR level, you win at the criminal court level, and that is the one that really matters.
What Happens at the ALR Hearing?
An ALR hearing is not a criminal matter. Therefore, many of the normal constitutional protections, like the right to remain silent, do not apply. So, if the arresting officer does not appear, the Administrative Law Judge could force defendants to testify against themselves.
Moreover, an ALJ is not an elected or appointed judge. Instead, the ALJ is usually a paid DPS employee, or perhaps a DPS contractor. Furthermore, this person is not just the judge. In most cases, the ALJ is also the prosecutor and the jury.
Unfortunately, there is more bad news. Probable cause for the specimen request is usually the only issue in an ALR refusal hearing. Probable cause for the result’s accuracy is typically the sole issue in an ALR failure hearing. Texas law does not specifically define “probable cause.” But, it is a much lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard of proof at trial. In plain English, if the burden of proof is probable cause, the officer always gets the benefit of the doubt.
Now, for the good news. Frequently, the evidence is very weak in DWI cases. Specifically, officers often take shortcuts. They may demand that the defendant provide a sample before the defendant performs field sobriety tests, like the one-leg stand. The state can still establish probable cause in such situations. But it is much more difficult.
Often, a Fort Worth DWI lawyer can leverage a defense, like weak evidence, and at least get the suspension period reduced. Even if that does not happen, the worst possible result is imposition of the full suspension period. That would have happened anyway, hearing or no hearing. So, there is no risk.
Perhaps most importantly, an ALR hearing allows an attorney to cross-examine the arresting officer on the record. Discovery like this usually costs hundreds of dollars, if it is even available. If the officer’s testimony changes between the ALR hearing and trial, the officer often loses credibility in the minds of jurors.
Contact the Law Office of Kyle Whitaker After a DWI
A Fort Worth DWI attorney can help you if you are facing an ALR Hearing.Contact the Law Office of Kyle Whitaker in Fort Worth, Texas to discuss your case.