Some critics say taking a person's license upon arrest causes the state to spend millions each year in appeal hearings and other administrative costs — some place the estimates at $3 million — and can ultimately damage criminal cases.A similar recommendation was made this summer by David Hodges, the Judicial Liaison for the Texas Center for the Judiciary, who suggested eliminating most administrative license revocations (ALRs) that aren't required by federal law in order to reduce the costs for administrative hearings and especially the number of driving with suspended license cases flooding Texas' county courts at law.
"I guess the simplest way to put it is that the juice ain't worth the squeeze," said Shannon Edmonds , an attorney who works in the government relations office for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. "The time and expense spent on suspending someone's license before they are convicted isn't justified" by the cost to the state, Edmonds said.
He said prosecutors also have long been frustrated by defense lawyers who use the appeals hearings to preview the criminal case against a client or to gather evidence.
For instance, he said, attorneys often question police officers under oath in the hearings, then use any inaccuracies or misstatements on details against the officers during criminal trials.
"It is useful because police officers don't get to make stuff up later in court," said attorney Jamie Balagia, who operates the website dwidude.com. "A good lawyer knows how to lock down testimony."
Edmonds said the law also has created profitable business for defense lawyers, some of whom charge several hundred dollars to represent their clients in the hearings and to seek an occupational license for them.
(Of course, with the Driver Responsibility Program being responsible for more than 1.9 million revoked licenses, 1.2 million of which have yet to be reinstated, eliminating that ill-conceived program might do more than anything else to resolve the costs and problems associated with revoked driver licenses, occupational licenses, etc., but that's a slightly different issue than pretrial revocation for DWI.)
On the DA's Association website, Edmonds clarified that "my suggestion was not to end ALR and replace it with nothing, but to replace it with ignition interlocks after arrest." Most license revocations, though, have nothing to do with DWIs, and pretrial (i.e, pre-conviction) punishments come with their own complications, so I'd prefer unlinking the two issues: The ALRs need to go, regardless of how the state chooses to reform its DWI laws.