In most cases, when a person is pulled over on suspicion of DWI, the police will ask that the suspect take a breathalyzer to estimate blood alcohol content. Under Texas law, the driver has the choice to take the breathalyzer or not, but if the police have probable cause to suspect the driver of DWI, then a refusal comes with a consequences.
The consequence for refusing to take a breathalyzer under these circumstances is a civil, and not criminal penalty. The penalty is an automatic suspension of the suspect’s driver’s license, subject to a hearing should he or she choose to challenge the suspension. That is exactly what happened in a recently-decided case handed down by the Thirteenth District Court of Appeals in Texas Department of Public Safety v. Smith.
Reversal of Fortune
In that case, the driver was pulled over on suspicion of DWI, and the police asked her to take a breathalyzer, which she refused. As a result, she was arrested on suspicion of DWI, and her license was suspended. She did not take the suspension lying down, and she appealed it for some very good reasons.
At the first appeal she lost her case. The administrative law judge ruled against her and said that the license suspension was valid. At the next level, the county judge ruled that her license should not have been suspended on several reasons. Among those reasons was a ruling that there was not enough evidence on the record to show that the police officer had probable cause to suspect the woman had committed DWI in the first place.
Her victory at the county court was a short one, however. The court of appeals immediately reversed the case, and said that the original ruling was justified. There were many technical reasons why the case was reversed, but the essence of the case was that once an administrative law judge makes a ruling on a license suspension, it is likely to be upheld.
To Challenge or Not to Challenge?
This case might cause people in a similar situation to ask whether it is worth it to challenge an administrative license suspension. And the answer is a resounding YES. There are several reasons why it is important to challenge an administrative license suspension, but one of the most important is to get the state on record about the case.
Once a person challenges a license suspension, it is then up to the state to prove that both the suspension and original traffic stop and subsequent arrest were justified. This means that the arresting officer is going to testify at the hearing, and that the state is going to put on much of their evidence. Anytime evidence is introduced against you, you have the right to challenge via cross examination and through other methods.
The lesson of this case and those like it is that an aggressive defense of DWI charges is the best kind of defense. No one should sit back and expect the prosecution to take it easy in exchange for cooperation, or for the court to hear your side of the story. If you are accused of a DWI, you need an advocate on your side. That is what we do a The Wilder DWI Defense Firm. Contact us today.
(image courtesy of Matthew Henry)