DWI Laws in Texas

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Will conviction of an offense in another State or a suspension in another state (either from a conviction or from an implied consent or administrative action) result in a suspension in Texas?

Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer. First, portions of the relevant statutes:

Texas Transportation Code § 521.292

(a) The department shall suspend the person's license if the department determines that the person:

  • (5) has committed an offense in another state or Canadian province that, if committed in this state, would be grounds for suspension;

TTC § 521.294 provides:

  • The department shall revoke the person's license if the department determines that the person: (7) has committed an offense in another state or Canadian province that, if committed in this state, would be grounds for revocation.

TTC § 521.306 provides:

  • (a) The department may suspend or revoke the license of a resident or the operating privilege of a nonresident to operate a motor vehicle in this state on receipt of notice of a conviction of the individual in another state or a Canadian province of an offense that, if committed in this state, would be grounds for the suspension or revocation of a driver's license.
  • (b) The department may give the same effect to the conduct of a resident of this state that occurs in another state or Canadian province that the department may give to conduct that occurs in this state under state law.

Thus, Texas statutes require the Department to suspend when there is conviction of an offense in another state that would require a suspension if committed in this State. Whether an offense in another State would require a conviction in Texas depends, in part, on the elements of the offense in the other state. Elements aside, a conviction in another state "may" have an effect under 521.306(b) based on the conduct: this, however, is very rare. Thus, DPS may (in the first instance) do pretty much whatever it pleases. Clearly, there are multiple possible interpretations of 521.306(b).

In large part, whether Texas can lawfully suspend a Texas driver's license based on an out of state conviction will come down to whether a judge in Texas thinks that the elements of the offenses in Texas and the other state are sufficiently similar. Texas requires (aside form the per se .08), not having the normal use of mental and physical faculties. A good argument can be made that some State's standards, i.e., "affected by" or "any effect" are less, if not far less, than the threshold in Texas.

DPS may not do anything. Then again, they "may" attempt to suspend based on conviction and suspension in the other state — if the other state gives Texas notice of it. In any event, a person will get notice of DPS's intent to seek to suspend, revoke, or cancel the license, an opportunity to request a hearing, and no effective suspension until the hearing process is complete — assuming s/he pursues it in Texas. Any person receiving such a notice needs to immediately hire a Texas lawyer.

It is far from certain that DPS will get notice from the other State — sometimes they do and sometimes they do not. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to when they do and do not get notice of out of state actions.

If the matter in Texas proceeds to an administrative hearing, there are a variety of things that may prevent a suspension in Texas. Finally, it is also possible that a Texas suspension under these circumstances could be probated.

What things can be done out of State to help in Texas?

In Texas, any DWI conviction (which includes a probated sentence) will carry a driver's license suspension unless there is a condition of probation requiring the D to complete the Texas DWI education course. So long as the education course is required as a condition of probation and so long as the course is completed within 180 days, there is no driver's license suspension for a first offense DWI. Second and subsequent offenses have mandatory suspension periods that vary in length depending on the precise circumstances.

The length of a suspension for a first DWI could be from 90 days to one year. Generally, a subsequent conviction will have a suspension of not less than 180 days and not more than two years. DPS will automatically suspend for one year unless the judgment contains an order for some other length of suspension. Thus, if the judgment contains an order for a 90 day suspension, DPS is required to follow it. Judgments containing a probated sentence for a first offense NEVER contain a TDL suspension because the DWI education program is always required — otherwise, there is little to no point in a probation.

Whether DPS will suspend based on an out of State conviction if the out of state sentence is probated and contains a requirement for the Texas DWI education program has not been settled (though I have been successful on several occasions with this strategy). It is always worthwhile to attempt to get the Texas DWI education program as a condition of an out of State probation because it would make for a very compelling argument for no suspension if DPS tried to suspend based on the out of state conviction. Since DPS can only suspend if the out of state conviction would allow suspension if it were in this State, the DWI education program "should" prevent a Texas suspension.

The good news is that Texas will not automatically do anything. If they propose to suspend based on out of State conduct, out of state suspension, or an out of state conviction, DPS will send a notice that it is going to do so unless the person requests a hearing. The request for a hearing stays everything until there has been a hearing and provides a REAL opportunity for avoiding the suspension. The bad news is that if a person gets such a letter from DPS, then they will need to hire a lawyer and act quickly. The deadlines are firm and not extendable. People need to make sure that the address on the person's Texas driver's license is an address where she actually can get mail since that is where DPS will send all notices. If it is a relative's house, they need to be made aware to watch for any letters from DPS. If the deadline (usually 20 days from when it is mailed) is missed, there will be a suspension and no options to avoid it.

For drivers' license eligibility and payment of reinstatement
fees: https://txapps.texas.gov/txapp/txdps/dleligibility/


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