Austin Suspended Drivers License Lawyer
If you've had your license suspended in Austin, you may need a lawyer to get driving again without unnecessary delays and fines. While technically driving is called a "privilege", it's no secret that the Texas public transportation system won't work out for most people in the busy world of 2016. Trying to live and work with a suspended drivers license in Austin will cost you a lot in lost time, extra hassle, insurance costs, and fees. If you're facing a drivers license suspension, read on through this guide on how to get driving again ASAP.
This guide is divided into three sections:
- Causes of Drivers Licence Suspensions
- Penalties for Driving with a Suspended License
- How to Get Driving Again
Causes of Drivers Licence Suspensions in Texas
In Texas your drivers license can be suspended in two different ways. If you are convicted in court of a criminal offense, such as possession of marijuana, one of the penalties can be a license suspension. This type of suspension does not occur until after you are found guilty of an offense, rather than merely accused of one. However, your license can also be suspended "administratively" under the Administrative License Revocation law if you fail to pass a field sobriety test after being stopped by the police. This suspension will happen before your case is decided on by a Texas court.
Administrative Licence Revocation
If you are stopped in your vehicle by a police officer and he or she has reason to believe you may be intoxicated, the officer can give you a field sobriety test. If you fail or refuse to take a blood or breathe sobriety test, your drivers license will be automatically suspended as an Administrative Licence Revocation (ALR). The police officer who stopped you is supposed to take your original drivers license and give you a 40-day driving permit. This suspension will last between 90 days and 2 years, but can be contested if you request a hearing within 15 days of the offense. Since you'll be ineligible to request this hearing after 15 days, it's important to quickly determine whether you should request a hearing to protest an ALR if you are accused of DWI. For information on ALR hearings, see the "Protest the Suspension" section below. We offer a free phone consultation if you need to discuss your situation.
Suspensions for Criminal Convictions
In Texas your license can be suspended if you are convicted of certain criminal charges. It's best to check with a lawyer familiar with suspended drivers licences to get the details for a particular offense.
- Involved in a serious car accident without insurance
- Leaving the scene of a serious accident
- Too many traffic tickets
- Unpaid fees
- Not paying child support
- Violating probation
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Refusing to do the DWI test
- Possession of drugs
- Underage drinking
- Giving alcohol to minors
- Street racing
- Stealing gas
- Using a fake ID or someone else's ID
- Using fake license plates or similar
- A doctor's recommendation that you shouldn't drive
Many cases of drivers license suspension in Austin are actually performed improperly or without sufficient evidence. The Law Offices of Sue Berkel have been defending against drivers license suspension for over 25 years, so we can tell you if your case could be dismissed or resolved. Contact us for a free consultation on your case.
Penalties for Driving with a Suspended License
There are many situations in which it may seem reasonable to drive with a suspended license. It may not even seem like a serious crime. However, the consequences are serious indeed and range from criminal charges to financial costs to severe inconveniences and lost time. It's best to avoid this situation if you can, so you probably want to consult with a lawyer if you're facing these penalties.
In Texas this offense is called Driving While License Invalid (DWLI). This charge includes licenses that are invalid because of a suspension but also licenses that are revoked or had their applications denied. A drivers license revocation means you cannot obtain another license until you submit to an investigation, so it is generally more serious than a suspension. Being convicted of DWLI is a misdemeanor in Texas, but there are 3 classifications.
Class C Misdemeanor
Many attorneys will tell you DWLI is a Class B misdemeanor, but that's not true according to § 521.457 of the Texas Transportation Code. The code states that the DWLI offense starts out as a Class C misdemeanor and is escalated due to specific circumstances. If this is your first offense of driving with a suspended license, and you weren't intoxicated while driving, the misdemeanor is likely Class C. Penalties include a criminal offense fine between $100 and $500, and a doubling of the total suspension period. So if you were 3 months into a 6-month suspension, your license would be suspended until 9 months from now.
Class B Misdemeanor
If there are additional aggravating circumstances, the DWLI offense may be a Class B misdemeanor. If the suspension is the result of a DWI criminal conviction in court, if you have a prior conviction of driving with a suspended license, or if you were caught driving without insurance, the classification is increased to a more serious Class B. This charge can additionally bring possible jail time between 72 hours and 180 days, and a criminal fine as high as $2000.
Class A Misdemeanor
If you are found at fault in a car accident resulting in bodily injury while driving with a suspended license, the classification is a Class A misdemeanor, which can add more penalties such as jail time up to 1 year and a fine up to $4000
The legal penalties given above are not to be taken lightly when having a criminal record can negatively affect your credit rating, housing options, and future job offers. However, other consequences such as the extra fees you'll pay for DWLI are significant as well. As you can see below, the additional fees of this conviction add up to over $1000.
|Towing expenses||An arrest while driving with a suspended license will likely result in your vehicle being towed and stored somewhere and you sent the bill.||$150|
|Annual "surcharge"||There is a surcharge of $250 that must be paid each year for three years for all convictions of driving with a suspended license.||$750|
|License reinstatement fee||You can expect to pay a reinstatement fee when it's finally time to get your license back.||$125|
|SR-22 insurance||To get your license reinstated, you are typically required to pay for SR-22 insurance, which proves to the government your regular insurance is valid.||$25|
|Higher insurance premiums||Your insurance company may determine you're a higher-risk driver as a result to this conviction. The extra cost to you will vary based on factors such as your demographics, prior criminal record, etc.||$150+|
Clearly if an experienced criminal defense attorney can get your DWLI case dismissed or reduced, it will pay off in the long run.
How to Get Driving Again
If your license is suspended by the DPS, you will be mailed an enforcement notification. If the DPS doesn't have your current address on file, you won't receive this document but your license will still be suspended. You can change your address online at the DPS site or visit them in person if you are so inclined.
Protest the Suspension
If your drivers license will be suspended automatically because of a failed sobriety test during a DWI stop, one option you have is to challenge the suspension by requesting an administrative hearing. Sue Berkel is also a top administrative lawyer in Austin and a former administrative law judge, so she is familiar with the hearings at the State Office of Administrative Hearings. This hearing must be requested within 15 days of receiving notice of the suspension, so it's important to act quickly. The Law Offices of Sue Berkel can tell you if you've got a chance at one of these hearings.
If you're eligible for an ALR hearing and have made a timely request for one, no license suspension may be imposed until the Department of Public Safety proves several things with sufficient evidence at the hearing:
- There was reasonable suspicion to stop or probable cause to arrest the driver
- There was probable cause that the accused was in fact in physical control of a motor vehicle in a public location while intoxicated
- The driver was offered an opportunity to submit to a breath or blood and was notified orally and in writing of the penalties of failing or refusing to take the test
- If applicable, the driver did in fact refuse to submit to the sobriety test
If you do not prevail at an administrative hearing, there is still the option of demonstrating the need for a restricted drivers license.
Apply for an Occupational Drivers License
Whatever the reason your license was suspended, we can help get you driving legally again. An occupational drivers license, also known as an essential need license, is a special type of license that can only be used in certain situations.
- 12 hours or less per day
- Only to go to work, school, or run basic errands
- Only in your area—for example, Travis County
A request for an occupational license is made to a county or district court or to a Justice of the Peace, depending upon the court of original jurisdiction in the location where the offense resulting in license revocation occurred. If the judge or Justice of the Peace decides that an individual is eligible for an essential need license, he or she may issue a court order, which authorizes the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to issue the occupational license. For a 30-day period, the judge’s order can be used as a valid driver’s license while DPS is processing the occupational license request.
The following waiting periods may be required before an occupational drivers license can be issued in Texas.
|90-day||Previous suspension for an alcohol or drug-related offense|
|180-day||License is in suspension due to a conviction of driving while intoxicated|
|1-year||Two or more previous administrative drivers license suspensions|
Getting an occupational drivers license requires several steps:
Car Insurance Document
There's a document called the SR22 from your insurance company that simply promises the DPS they'll notify them of any changes in your coverage. This is because the DPS wants to know if you lose your car insurance.
The DPS maintains a record of your driving history and you will need to obtain a copy from them in order to get a restricted license.
Letter from your Employer or School
You must get a letter from your work or school stating that you need to drive.
Reinstate the Suspended License
In order to eventually reinstate your license after a DWI suspension, you may need to complete a 12-hour alcohol education class. If this isn't your first DWI, there is an additional class for repeat offenses. It's possible you will have to install a breathalyzer, or ignition interlock device, on your vehicle in order to start it up.