There is not much more paperwork than what you’re charged with and how you’ve secured release as far as any bond. So if you post a cash bond, you should have a receipt for the cash bond; if you hire a bondsperson, you should have a copy of the bond paperwork. This paperwork should show you what the magistrate said you were charged with, the offense and the amount of the bond. And that may be all you’re given. That may be all you know at that point. You may later hear of your court date through the bondsperson or directly from the court or from the attorney hired to represent you; but when you walk out of jail, you may know nothing more than the offense that you’re charged with and the amount of the bond. That’s why it’s so important to contact an expert attorney at that point to find out what defenses are available to you and how you can preserve your freedom.
In Texas, when you’re arrested for DWI, you may be given a notice of suspension of your driver’s license. If you refuse the testing request or if you fail a breath or blood test, then the officer can give you a notice of suspension. Now, that suspension doesn’t go into effect for 40 days in Texas; so if you had a good license and were legally able to drive at the time you’re arrested, then when you walk out of jail, you’re still legal to drive for 40 days from the date of that arrest. If you don’t demand a hearing regarding the possible suspension of your license, then your license gets suspended 40 days from the date of the arrest for 90 days up to two years, depending on whether it’s a failure, a refusal or there are prior suspensions of the license.
It’s very important to timely demand the hearing, and there’s a tricky window for demanding this hearing. You can’t demand the hearing sooner than five days after your arrest, but you must demand a hearing 15 days from the date of your arrest. So it’s important to demand a hearing, and by demanding the hearing, that keeps the suspension from going into effect for as long as it takes to have the hearing, which can be much more than 40 days. People are given a notice of suspension, which is also called a Temporary Driving Permit, and people often misunderstand and think that the permit is only good for 40 days. But 40 days is when the suspension goes into effect if no hearing was demanded; but if the hearing is demanded, then that temporary permit allows the person to continue driving until the hearing happens. In fact, there is a sentence inside a rectangular box about two-thirds of the way down the page of this temporary permit that says, “If you request a hearing, this permit will remain in effect until the administrative judge makes a final decision in your case.” If we can’t win the hearing, we can appeal and sometimes win by appealing that decision to a higher court. If we don’t think we can win on appeal, we can get an occupational license issued if there’s a suspension in that situation, but it’s very important to use that hearing as an opportunity to cross-examine the arresting officer.
At the administrative license revocation hearing, we are able to subpoena the officer and cross-examine him, which gives us an opportunity to pin that officer down on any illegal acts that the officer may have taken pending or during the arrest. Officers very often make mistakes in the way they handle the situation, and they may not even know the mistakes that they make. They will candidly admit their mistakes because they don’t know it’s a mistake, and we can pin them down and get them to answer these things at this hearing.
That’s important because at the trial, the judge can rule that the police acted illegally and basically throw the case out or rule that the evidence can’t be used against the person. But when the trial comes up, a smart prosecutor may see what those issues are that might help our client and can coach the officer by saying, “Well, Officer Jones, are you sure, before you had Mr. Smith step out of the car, you didn’t have some additional reasons to suspect intoxication?” The officer then realizes that he needs to start adding some things, or the officer may start naming things that typically happen in a DWI case but didn’t happen in our client’s case, such as slurred speech. That’s a frequent characteristic in a DWI arrest, and this officer may have done 50 or more of these arrests by the time the trial comes up.
His memories start blurring, and he may remember things that happened in other cases. But if that happens and he embellishes or adds things he remembers from other cases, we can impeach the officer and show the judge that the officer testified differently in a previous hearing because we have a written transcript of his sworn testimony, and that can go a long way in helping win the case.