Texas law allows a person arrested for DWI to request an ALR hearing “in person” or “by phone”. Is it better to conduct an administrative license revocation hearing live/in person or by telephone?

The best practice is to request a conduct a live/in person hearing. Honestly, I can think of no exceptions to this rule.

There are two main reasons to have a hearing: (1) to keep your client’s license from being suspended in the first place, and (2) to gain an opportunity to cross examine the stopping and arresting officers without the criminal prosecutors present.

A substantial portion of ALR wins comes by default; that is, one of the requested and necessary witnesses fails to show up. Allowing DPS to proceed telephonically greatly increases the chances that an officer will be available. Obviously, it’s much easier for a police officer to literally “phone in” his appearance, than it is to come down to court and testify in person.

But even in cases where you know the witness will show up, it is still the best practice to conduct a live cross examination. 

Sometimes a client comes to see me the day or so after their arrest, and I almost immediately know by looking at their paperwork that the officer will show up at the ALR hearing. For example, the officers on the Austin DWI Task Force are known for always appearing. I have personally cross-examined most of them more than 20, 30, and sometimes 40 times.

But, again, it’s still better to request that the hearing be conducted in person rather than over the phone.

Reason #2 for having the hearing in the first place is seriously compromised when a DWI lawyer decides to just “stay in his office” and “do it on the phone”.

One of my jobs at an ALR hearing is to evaluate the strength of the State’s case against my client. The officer’s demeanor, appearance, and overall savvy on the stand can not be effectively gauged over the phone. On many occasions, what I initially suspected was a difficult case for my client to win becomes much better after the ALR. The truth is that some folks make better witnesses than others even if the substance of their testimony is identical.

Cross-examination is at least as much art as science, and only a face to face meeting between the DWI lawyer and the arresting officer will accurately reflect what that same testimony will sound like at trial.