In California, DUI (driving under the influence) cases have two distinct parts: criminal litigation and administrative parts. While the DUI court process can impose penalties, including jail time, fines, and mandatory DUI school, an administrative review hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) decides what will happen to your driving privileges. The DMV has the power to suspend your driving license if you are arrested for DUI, meaning you can lose your driving privileges way before your DUI criminal case is heard in court. If you are arrested for DUI in Los Angeles, CA, it is crucial to seek reliable legal representation immediately. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we can help you with both parts of your case and increase your chances of enjoying a favorable outcome.
The authorities start a DMV action when you are caught behind the wheel while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. This action is also triggered if you refuse to take chemical tests to allow the police to evaluate your BAC (blood alcohol concentration). We can help you request for an administrative review hearing (“administrative per se” hearing) to increase your odds of keeping your license, at least until a judge determines your DUI criminal case.
What is a DUI DMV Hearing?
Just like regular court proceedings, you have a right to self-represent during a DMV administrative hearing. However, you can increase your chances of winning by enlisting a skilled DUI attorney. Winning during the administrative hearing may have your license reinstated, although it may be suspended once more following a DUI conviction.
A favorable ruling may reinstate unlimited driving rights as long as you apply for an ignition interlock device (IID) restricted license. First-time DUI offenders must keep the IID installed in their car for about four months. You may have to use the IID for 1—2 years when dealing with serious DUI cases.
If the DMV doesn’t rule in your favor, you may need to sign up for an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP) before you can have your driving rights reinstated.
Criminal DUI proceedings and DMV administrative hearings are alike in the sense that they prioritize the safety and best interests of the general public. As such, the DMV may still suspend your driving rights, even if you don’t end up with a DUI conviction.
Apart from drunk driving, the DMV can put your driving privilege on hold on the grounds of:
- Physical and mental unfitness
- Being a negligent operator
- Lack of knowledge/ driving skills, etc
Time Limits for A DMV Hearing in California
Right after you are arrested for drunk driving in California, the police will seize your driver’s license and offer you a “Notice of Suspension. This is a temporary license valid for about 30 days. The notice also entitles you DUI DMV hearing that can help prevent the automatic suspension of your driver’s license.
You have no more than 10 days from the date of your arrest to schedule for the Driver Safety Administrative Per Se Hearing (DMV administrative hearing). If the 10—day window elapses before you request for a hearing, the DMV will suspend your license automatically, stripping you of your driving rights once the temporary license expires.
You can reinstate your license after:
- Signing up in a California DUI school
- Submitting an SR-22 insurance form
- Settling a driver’s license reinstatement fee of $125
- Installing an IID in your car (doesn’t apply in all cases)
When dealing with DUI cases, time is not on your side. It is essential not to delay requesting a DMV DUI hearing. You may want to work with a skilled lawyer because winning during the DMV hearing will not only reinstate your driving rights until your case is determined but may also be instrumental in winning your DUI criminal case.
Elements the State Must Prove During A DMV Administrative Hearing
The DMV hearing has a limited scope, and it can only determine whether you can have your driving rights or not. Some of the issues the hearing officer will consider during the hearing include:
- Whether you were driving (or in physical control) of a vehicle
- Whether the arresting officer had probable cause for the traffic stop that lead to your charges and arrest
- Whether you were lawfully arrested
- Whether you were operating an automobile with a BAC of 0.08% or higher
- Whether you were impaired by drugs when driving
The state has to prove that you were on the wrong before your driving rights can be revoked. The DMV hearing officer will consider all evidence tabled by the arresting officer and evaluate the results of your chemical tests and field sobriety tests (FSTs).
There are different types of DMV administrative hearings. While most of them are straightforward and typically don’t require raising legal arguments, DUI DMV hearings can be complicated and confusing. It is necessary to work with an experienced DUI attorney who can challenge the evidence presented by your arresting officer and increase the chances of your suspension being thrown out.
How to Request For A DUI DMV Hearing in California
There are two main ways through which you can request a DMV hearing—via phone or fax. This request should be addressed to the Driver Safety Office in the county where you were arrested for drunk driving. It is important to note that this is not the DMV Office within your area.
Request via Phone:
When you call the applicable DSO (Driver Safety Office), you should ask for a stay and a DMV hearing. Through your attorney, you can also obtain the police report where your DUI is documented.
You will also need to provide information about your case, mainly information you can find on your DUI ticket. This information may include:
- The date and location of your arrest
- The ID number and name of the arresting officer
- The tests used to determine your intoxication levels
Request via Fax
You can also fax your application to the applicable DSO and request a stay and a hearing. In this case, you must ensure that your application contains the following information:
- Your name, license number, and contact information
- The date and location of your arrest
- The ID number and name of the arresting officer and his/ her police agency
- The tests used to establish your intoxication levels
Again, the information you need to provide is available on your DUI arrest ticket. If you opt to fax your request, make sure you receive a fax confirmation. This will confirm information that includes:
- When you sent the fax (date and time)
- The fax number you used (for the Driver Safety Office in the county where you were arrested)
What to Expect Of the DMV Hearing
The core purpose of a DMV administrative hearing is to offer you a chance to present evidence or testimonies against the action or intention of suspending your driving privilege. You will need to appear in court for a hearing, although you have the option of filing a postponement or continuance if you are unable to attend the hearing.
The evidence you present on your behalf can be in the form of medical records, photos, sworn documents, and other items relevant to your case. You can also give evidence in the form of sworn statements from witnesses.
During the hearing, you have a right to a fair and complete evaluation of the facts of your case by an unbiased person. You also have a right to:
- Seek legal representation by a skilled attorney
- Cross-examine evidence and the testimonies of opposing witnesses
- Take the stand and testify in favor of your case
- Subpoena documents, witnesses, and other forms of proof
- Table evidence in favor of your case
- Appeal the DMV’s decision
The hearing officer is tasked with deciding whether to reinstate your driving rights until your DUI case is determined. Depending on the evidence tabled during the hearing and the testimonies of witnesses, the officer may choose to:
- Keep the notice of suspension in effect
- Dismiss your notice of suspension
- Modify the DMV’s former decision
Once the hearing officer makes a decision, you will be notified about it in writing. The time required for this decision to be made may vary depending on the cause of your driving privilege suspension and the evidence and testimonies presented during a hearing.
If you don’t like the decisions made during a DMV hearing, you can file an appeal and request the department to review its decision. You may appeal this decision to the superior court, although it is crucial to know about the time limitations and fees involved.
Best Defenses for A DMV License Suspension Hearing
There are more than a few good reasons why you should request a DMV hearing. First, this could help lift your license suspension, at least until your DUI criminal case is determined in court. Winning during this hearing is often easier than winning in court. You have a good chance of having your driving rights reinstated, especially if you work with an experienced attorney.
If you lose during the DMV hearing, you will still have something to gain. For instance, your attorney can evaluate the evidence and testimonies presented against you and determine whether the state has a strong or weak case. This will help decide the best defenses to use during your criminal case.
The work of an attorney is to protect your rights and best interests. One of the key reasons it is best to seek legal representation when preparing for a DMV hearing is that the hearing officer’s decision can also harm your DUI criminal case.
Some of the best defenses your attorney may use to win during the DMV hearing include:
You Weren’t Driving
The police have no grounds for charging you if you were not driving or in physical control of your car. If an officer didn’t personally observe you operating a vehicle while showing signs of intoxication, your attorney could use this to have the DMV reinstate your driving rights.
It is essential to understand that the judge deciding your DUI case may not necessarily come to the same conclusion as the DMV hearing officer. However, a judge is likely to consider the DMV’s decision during your criminal case.
Your Arrest Was Unlawful
You may also argue that your arrest and seizure of your driver’s license was unlawful. An arrest can be deemed illegal if an officer had no probable cause of pulling you over. An experienced DUI attorney can cite various reasons that may validate an officer’s lack of probable cause.
For instance, it is illegal for police officers to practice racial profiling. If you were pulled over merely because of your race or ethnicity, the DMV has reason to question the accuracy of your BAC readings and the results of your field sobriety tests. Again, a skilled lawyer can argue that an arrest was racially motivated, which may reverse the DMV’s decision to put your driver’s license on hold.
The arresting officer must prove a range of elements for your charges to stick. For instance, he/she must use more than one means to show probable cause. An arrest based merely on the fact that your breath reeked of alcohol is likely to be deemed unlawful.
The Lack of an Observation Period
California laws mandate an arresting police officer to observe you for at least 15 minutes before administering a breath or blood test. This ensures the accuracy of a test by affirming that a suspect doesn’t eat, vomit, or drink anything within this period. Without this 15-minute observation, the results of blood and breath tests are likely to be thrown out.
Testing Equipment Procedures Were Not Followed (Title 17 Code Of Regulations)
In California, there are regulations that determine how breath and blood tests ought to be administered. These regulations also define the protocols for collecting, analyzing, and storing test samples. In case the code of rules under Title 17 was violated, this is enough grounds to sway the DMV’s decision in your favor.
For instance, the police must have their breathalyzer instruments calibrated every 10 days or after every 150 blows. If this standard procedure was not followed, the sobriety results presented during the DMV hearing are likely to be deemed inaccurate, making it unfair to suspend your driver’s license.
False BAC Readings
Sometimes, the BAC readings can be high for reasons unrelated to alcohol or drug consumption. It could be that a driver had heartburn, had just eaten a low carbohydrate and high protein meal, or had just used an alcohol-based mouthwash or other medication.
If your attorney can effectively demonstrate other reasons apart from alcohol consumption that may have caused a falsely high BAC reading, the suspension of your driving rights may be set aside.
Your Rights Were Violated
As a free American citizen, you have rights even if a police officer pulls you over with probable cause. For instance, the officer should inform you about the repercussions of agreeing or refusing to take the blood or breath test. This includes informing you about the possibility of your driver’s license being suspended.
If an officer fails to provide adequate warning, this may again serve as an excellent defense to reinstate your driving privilege. This warning notice must be stated verbatim, and a personal interpretation from an officer doesn’t count as an adequate warning.
You Didn’t “Intentionally” Refuse To Take a Breath Test
Refusal to take a breath or blood test can lead to the automatic suspension of your driver’s license. Sometimes, drivers refuse to take these tests for reasons that have nothing to do with their intent to hide intoxication.
For example, your lawyer could argue that your medical condition made it challenging or impossible for you to blow enough air into the breathalyzer. It could also be that you didn’t find the gadgets safe, opting to take a blood test instead, but it was unavailable.
Flawed Paperwork from the Arresting Officer
DUI cases in California are considered delicate, making it crucial for arresting officers to be extra careful when handling the necessary paperwork. Any missing or incorrect information may again make the point of an arrest questionable.
For instance, the DMV cannot overlook an error in the spelling of your name. Your lawyer could argue that if an officer misspelled your name even with your driver’s license at hand, he/she might also have entered inaccurate figures on the BAC results paperwork.
DMV hearings are civil proceedings, meaning that a hearing officer needs to prove that “by a preponderance of the evidence” you were driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The term “a preponderance of the evidence” insinuates that you were more likely than not to be drunk driving.
A competent DUI lawyer can help raise doubt during the DMV hearing. Depending on the unique circumstances of your case, the expert can use different defenses to make the hearing officer assume that you were more likely than not sober during your DUI arrest.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me
During your DUI criminal trial, you will have the right to legal representation. You may opt to retain a lawyer of your choice, or one can be appointed for you at the state’s expense. During DMV hearings in Los Angeles, CA, you still have a right to an attorney, although you can self-represent at your own peril. If you cannot afford legal counsel, the state will not assign a public defender to your case. The main risk of self-representation is that even a minor blunder can do more than just cause an unfavorable DMV decision. It can also harm your DUI criminal case. If you need to request a DUI DMV hearing, we invite you to reach out to us at the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer. Let us advocate for your rights, defend you and work towards protecting your best interests. Visit us for a free consultation or call us at 424-333-0943.