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DMV Administrative Hearings

If you’re arrested for DUI in California, you must fight for your freedom in two legal proceedings: a criminal charge for DUI in court and an administrative case with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The California DUI court process will determine if you’re guilty and if so, the criminal penalties that you will face for your actions. These penalties may include fines, potential jail times, DUI probation, and completion of California DUI School. Conversely, the sole purpose of the DMV hearing in a DUI case is to determine whether you should be allowed to retain your driving privileges. The DMV can only suspend your driver’s license but cannot fine you or send you to jail.

A DMV administrative hearing is more like a mini-trial.  Objections are taken into account, the evidence is introduced, witnesses may be called to testify, and professionals submit their views. All these are complex legal proceedings. If you opt to represent yourself at the DMV administration hearing, you must have a practical understanding of the California Government Code, The California Vehicle Code, the Evidence Code, and the California Code of Civil Procedures. With the lack of this knowledge and experience, you risk losing your driving privileges, which can negatively impact almost every aspect of your life. It can create a hardship for your family, and most demonstrably your ability to earn a living if you’re employed in a driving capacity.

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, or the DMV has notified you of a driver’s license suspension, you must act quickly to obtain a DMV administrative hearing date. If you take too long, you may have waived your rights to object to the suspension of your license. You only have 10 days to make the request. Contact Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney at 323-464-6700 today for a free, comprehensive consultation. Our DUI attorney will review the facts of your case and will proffer up an honest legal analysis of your case. Mr. Franklin will meet with you, explain the process, and develop an appropriate defense to present your best case and retain or reinstate your license.

What Happens at a DMV Hearing?

The DMV hearing is more informal than a criminal court case. The hearing takes place at a DMV Driver Safety office. There’s no jury or judge, but rather the case is presided over by a DMV hearing officer. The officer is not a judge and does not have any legal degree. In fact, the officer doubles up as the prosecutor and judge. Also, the burden of proof in a DMV hearing is much lower than it is for a criminal case. This means that it’s easier for your license to be suspended than it is to be convicted of a DUI offense.

At the hearing, you will have a chance to present evidence, challenge evidence used against you, such as the results of field sobriety tests or chemical tests. You may also call witnesses to testify on your behalf and can testify on your behalf. Your hearing will be recorded. The officer will call the witnesses (usually the arresting police officer) and analyze the police report. The hearing officer will closely listen to the evidence as it’s presented to determine if you drove with a BAC over the legal limit or refused a lawful request to submit to chemical testing.

The officer will then analyze the facts of your specific case and then make a pronouncement concerning your driving privileges. The hearing officer may choose to:

  • Dismiss or end the action, reinstating your driving privileges
  • Uphold the original decision to revoke or suspend your driving rights
  • Restrict your driving license or place you on probation so you can retain your driving privileges but on a limited basis

It’s worth noting that since a DMV hearing is not a court case, you cannot claim to your 5th Amendment rights against giving testimony against yourself. This means that the officer may call you as a witness.

The DMV hearing officer is basically looking for evidence so as to prosecute you and have your driver’s license suspended. The motions filed can be very complex, and the defenses very technical. Unlike a judge in a criminal court, the hearing officer is not independent since he/she works for and is paid by the same agency trying hard to have your driver’s license suspended. These are more reasons why it is important to retain an experienced DUI attorney to appear at the hearing. With an attorney in your corner, you may not need to appear before the hearing officer and miss work. Furthermore, the officer won’t be able to call you as a witness.  

What Issues Does the DMV Hearing Focus On?

If you submitted to a chemical test, the hearing will focus on a number of issues, including:

  • Whether the law enforcement officer had reasonable cause to believe that you were intoxicated at the time of arrest,
  • Whether your BAC was 0.08% or higher at the time of driving, and
  • Whether your arrest was legal.

If you refused a chemical test, there will be no evidence showing what your BAC was at the time of the arrest. As such, instead of examining the BAC issue, the DMV hearing will seek to answer different questions:

  • Whether the arresting officer told you that if you refused or failed to complete a breath or blood test, your driving privileges will be suspended for 1 year or revoked for 2 or 3 years, and
  • Whether you willfully refused to submit to the test or failed to complete the teats after being requested to do so by the officer.

After refusing these issues, the DMV hearing will either “sustain the action,” which involves suspending your driver’s license based on the alleged DUI, or “set aside the action” which is reversing the suspension of your driver’s license for the DUI. Your attorney must be able to refute at least one of these issues or successfully prevent incriminations evidence from being admitted at the hearing to ensure that you do not lose your driving privileges. An experienced DUI defense lawyer can guide you through the plethora of defenses that will help you refute these issues and win your hearing. These defenses could include:

  • The officer cannot prove that you were driving
  • The police lacked probable cause to stop you or detain you for DUI
  • You were arrested at an illegal DUI sobriety/driver’s license checkpoint
  • The officer failed to conduct a proper 15-minute observation period
  • The officers did not use BAC testing equipment properly
  • The testing equipment was not calibrated or working properly
  • The arresting officer failed to explain the consequences of refusing a test
  • There were other explanations for your false high BAC results
  • You did not refuse to submit to a breath or blood test
  • There were significant problems with the officer’s paperwork

What Are Your Rights at a DMV Hearing?

As a defendant, you enjoy the right to be represented at your DMV hearing by a lawyer or other representatives at your own cost. Representation by a lawyer is not necessary. This implies that different from California criminal proceeding, the Department of Motor Vehicles will not assign a lawyer for you in case you’re not in a position to afford one. You’ve got the right to examine your evidence as well as to interrogate the testimony of any witnesses from the department, and to present proof and witnesses on your own behalf.  Moreover, you have the right to testify on your own behalf.  After the hearing, you have the right to be offered a decision in writing. Moreover, if the decision obtained from the hearing is against you, you still have the right to request the same department to carry out a review of the decision, and the right to appeal the decision to superior court.

How is a DMV Hearing Related to My DUI Criminal Case?

It bears repeating that the DMV DUI hearing isn’t mainly focused on whether you committed a crime or not. It solely centers on the circumstances surrounding your arrest and on whether you should retain your driving privileges. With that in mind, the DUI court proceeding and the DMV DUI hearing are closely related. Testimony obtained during the hearing could also be used by the prosecutor for your criminal court case. Also, it could be used to dismiss or reduce your charge as part of plea bargain negotiations. If you receive a not guilty verdict during a bench or trial, that verdict forces the DMV to reissue your driver’s license. However, pleading guilty or no contest or a court dismissal will not have any bearing on your driver’s license suspension or revocation. The only possible proceeding that will nullify the suspension of your DMV license is an exoneration on the charge of driving with a BAC (blood alcohol) of 0.80% or higher, a “set aside” at the DMV hearing, or Vehicle Code Section 23152(b). A “set aside” at the DMV hearing does not affect the criminal case and that the facts determined during the DMV hearing may or may not be similar facts demonstrated in a criminal case.

One thing that creates a major difference between the two is that the DMV hearing is presided over by a hearing officer who works for the DMV. A DUI trial, on the other hand, is governed by a panel of impartial jurors who must unanimously agree that you’re guilty of a DUI before you can be convicted. Nonetheless, both cases are equally important, and it’s so critical to have a Los Angeles DUI defense attorney with vast experience with California DUI trials and California DMV DUI hearings. You need to retain an attorney who has experience in both systems because they are conducted so differently.

Because the lawyers at Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney have experience and relationships with different California DMV hearing officers, they can receive unsurpassed service. We know the types of arguments and evidence that the hearing officers often use to win these cases and can go in prepared to counteract what they have. Moreover, this same commitment to our clients extends into the courtroom. As experienced and reputable DUI specialists, our relationships with local prosecutors and judges and experience with local court systems allow us to secure the best deal for our clients.

What Happens After my DMV DUI Hearing?

If you win your DMV hearing, you will retain your driving privileges intact. This could also mean being in a position to obtain a better deal with the prosecutor for your DUI criminal case. If the hearing reveals substantial flaws in the case, the prosecutor may be convinced to dismiss the case. However, since the DMV hearing and the criminal court proceedings are two separate proceedings, winning the hearing does not automatically mean that the effect will be the same for the court proceedings. The prosecutor may still believe that he/she has strong evidence to take the case to trial. Moreover, should you be convicted of DUI in court, the judge has the authority to suspend or revoke your license.

Conversely, if you lose your hearing, your license will be immediately suspended for 6 to 10 months for a first-offense DUI, 2 years for a second-offense DUI within a ten-year period, 3 years for a third-offense DUI, and 4 years for a fourth or subsequent DUI within a ten-year period. You have the right to appeal the DMV decision if you believe you should have prevailed. The DMV can conduct a departmental review, or you can file an appeal with the California Superior Court.

However, even if you lose the DMV hearing, your attorney may have provided information that could encourage the prosecutor to dismiss your charges or offer a reduced plea. In some cases, the DMV could set aside the driver’s license suspension after you win a trial or get a plea bargain. Also, your attorney may be able to request a restricted license that allows you to drive to and from work/school and your DUI classes. Your privilege will only be converted to a restricted one if you show proof of enrollment in California DUI School, pay a $125 reinstatement fee, and submit an SR-22 insurance form. The length and circumstances of the suspension or restriction will depend on whether it is your first, second, or subsequent DUI case.

Finding a DUI Attorney Near Me

If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI in Los Angeles and is in need of help with a DMV hearing, Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney can help. Our attorneys will take control of your case, schedule the hearing on your behalf, investigate your case, and provide evidence to convince the DMV not to suspend your license. Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin at 323-464-6700 for a free confidential consultation.

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Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney
6777 Hollywood Blvd Ste 508
Los Angeles, CA 90028