ROADMAP TO TEXAS COURTS
Administrative Hearing vs. Criminal Case
County Court vs. District Court
I have lived my life, and I have fought my battles,
not against the weak and the poor–anybody can do that–
but against power, against injustice, against oppression,
and I have asked no odds from them, and I never shall.
CLARENCE S. DARROW
Administrative vs. Criminal
In every DWI case, there are actually two separate proceedings or cases involved. The first case deals with the criminal proceedings. This will take place in the criminal courts and the proceedings will be conducted either in the state district court or in the county court where you were arrested. This is the portion of the DWI case where the state or county authorities are trying to take away your liberty and possibly, in some circumstances, place you in jail for months or prison for many years. The criminal portion drives itself in that the court will set mandatory court dates and notify the defendant when he must appear. This will happen regardless of any action taken by the defendant.
The second case resulting from a DWI arrest is the administrative drivers license proceedings. The State of Texas will suspend your license for a minimum of six months and possibly up to two years if you refused to submit to a chemical test for intoxicants or for 90 days if you submitted and the test showed a blood or breath alcohol level of .08 or more. The suspension is automatic and begins forty-one days after you are served notice of the revocation. This notice is usually given at the jail when you were arrested. The notice is contained on the DIC-24. This is the form the officer read to you and requested for your blood or breath. Sometimes the arresting officer forgets to serve you with the notice but you are deemed to have received it regardless.
The only way to prevent this license suspension is to request an administrative hearing within 15 days of the service of notice. If this hearing is not requested within the 15 days, there is nothing that can be done to prevent the license suspension. Once the hearing is requested, it will put on hold any revocation action until the hearing is held and a ruling is made. The actual proceedings of the Department of Public Safety and appeal rights are covered separately.
District Court vs. County Court
In Texas, your driving while intoxicated charge can be prosecuted either in the state district court or in the county court. Usually the decision of which court you will be prosecuted in lies initially with the penalty range of the charge. District Courts handle felonies which result in prison time or years of probation and up to a $10,000.00 fine. County Courts handle Class B and A misdemeanors which can mean up to a year in County Jail or two years probation and a $4000.00 fine.