When you face a DUI arrest, you may worry about the possible outcomes, primarily because drunk driving is a punishable offense listed in the California Vehicle Code. Moreover, the consequences of a DUI violation bring about several inconveniences, including losing your driving privileges. Therefore, facing suspension penalties can significantly interfere with your daily life, especially if your primary means of transport to school or work is your car. As a result, you should follow up on your DUI matter, as you get the chance to defend yourself and hopefully retain your driving license. DMV hearings provide arrested persons the opportunity to hold a license suspension hearing, where you can raise valid arguments and defenses to maintain driving privileges.
While most arrested persons opt to appear for the DMV hearing alone, we always recommend having a criminal defense lawyer acting on your behalf. Mostly, DMV hearings may unravel complicated issues that only a skilled defense attorney can handle adequately. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we work closely with you to avoid possible DMV penalties related to your DUI offense. With help from our team serving in Los Angeles, California, you can count on us to deliver reliable services for a positive DMV hearing outcome.
Understanding What a DMV Administrative Hearing Entails
Upon arrest for DUI violations, you will be subject to subsequent legal repercussions that only take the course after a formal hearing. Taking part in the standard procedures like the DMV administrative hearings helps you defend your driving privileges despite breaking the law.
Hence, understanding what a DMV hearing entails is essential because you can make adequate preparations and know what to expect immediately after your arrest.
The Department of Motor Vehicles(DMV) is a certified government entity that serves in each state. Among the prescribed functions, it holds administrative hearings for people facing DUI charges. However, unlike a regular court, the DMV office only touches on the subject of license suspension.
Your hearing will, therefore, involve issues surrounding any unlawful activities that warrant license suspensions. Thus, the DMV officer presiding over your case does not emphasize the elements of crime related to your offense but focuses on the unlawful engagements that warrant the loss of driving privileges.
The DMV hearing conducted after your arrest is formally known as a Driver Safety Administrative Per Se Hearing. Thus, when you receive a notice requesting your presence in the meeting, you will understand the nature of proceedings to expect.
Some DMV hearings occur in a DMV driver safety branch office separate from the regular officers where you register your vehicles and obtain your license. In the safety branch office, personnel handle DUI cases to prepare for the numerous hearings that occur daily to note that while DMV administrative hearings have a legal mandate to conduct the hearings, you will be in a less formal environment than court hearings. Once you receive a hearing date, you may choose to appear in the office in person. However, most hearings often occur on the phone, whereby the DMV officer takes you through the various issues.
Additionally, you should know that DMV officers do not uphold the same formality as court judges because they have not undertaken formal legal training. Therefore, you may engage in more informal discussions, provided the subject matter of determining whether to suspend your remains.
Period Provided For You To Request a DMV Hearing
Learning of the period available for you to apply for a DMV hearing is necessary, as exceeding the time limit leads to more consequences. During the arrest process, the traffic officer in charge will confiscate your driver's license, pending a formal hearing. Consequently, you temporarily lose your driving privileges until a DMV officer reviews your matter.
Moreover, the officer should provide a pink sheet notice that validates your license confiscation and gives more information concerning a DMV hearing. The statement should state your right to a hearing where you can fight to prevent your license suspension.
The standard procedural guidelines issued in the notice require you to request a formal DMV within ten days after the arrest. If you successfully make applications within the stipulated time, there will be a delay in the license suspension until a DMV officer issues final orders.
Conversely, failing to apply for a DMV administrative hearing leads to an automatic license suspension. Your driving privileges become invalid thirty days after your DUI arrest.
Registering for Your Administrative DMV Hearing
When you receive a pink sheet notice after a traffic officer confiscates your license, you need to act quickly and schedule a hearing with the DMV. The issued statement provides details on how to register for a formal hearing within ten days.
Scheduling does not require much preparation, as you only need to call your DMV driver safety branch and provide necessary details. During your scheduled call, you need to give your full name, license number, and any other official information requested by the operator.
Once the office keys in the relevant information, you will receive a confirmation message or email with the set hearing date. You may also receive the confirmation through postal services, to allow you to fill in the attached documents that will be required during the trial.
Apart from the hearing dates, the confirmation mail also informs you of your options to involve a criminal defense attorney in your hearing, if possible. We recommend working with a lawyer to prepare for your case, as he/she can take over most of the operations. For example, the attorney can register for the formal hearing and even appear on your behalf, meaning that you may not have to go to the DMV office in person.
Elements For The Administrative DMV Officer to Consider in Your DUI Matter
When the hearing begins, the presiding officer will procedurally conduct the session to promote fairness. Thus, he/she should remain guided by relevant considerations in your case for an objective analysis.
Like in criminal cases, the details for the DMV office to consider work as elements of the offense that will later determine whether you get to retain your license. You, therefore, want to have your criminal lawyer present as the considerations begin. With your lawyer present during the hearing, he/she can raise counter-arguments or discredit specific information. Some matters for deliberation include:
Probable Cause by the Arresting Officer
An officer must have probable cause before stopping you and subjecting your to DUI tests to confirm his/her suspicions. A probable cause arises from the existence of reasonable doubt that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of stopping.
Hence, during the DMV hearing, the DMV officer will analyze police reports and statements made by the arresting DMV officer to establish whether he/she had probable cause to stop you for a check.
To do this, the arresting officer may present evidence proving that you portrayed common signs of intoxication. The symptoms are often physical but also include behavioral evidence. For example, if you operated the vehicle haphazardly before stopping at a DUI checkpoint, the traffic officer may have probable cause to subject you to DUI tests.
Moreover, after stopping, you may exhibit physical signs like bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, and a staggering posture, all of which indicate intoxication. The traffic officers may have recorded strong smells of alcohol as soon as you stepped out of the vehicle or even retrieved several bottles from the car.
Evidence also comes from any abnormal behavior noted by the officers. For example, appearing tired, inattentive, or too euphoric may raise a traffic officer's level of scrutiny, creating the probable cause to take further action.
Your Blood Alcohol Concentration Levels
Further, checking the results on your BAC levels is vital in a DMV hearing, as the records determine whether you broke the law. When considering your BAC levels, the DMV officer handling your matter will evaluate your case’s specific circumstances and compare them with statutory provisions under section 23152(a) and (b) of the California Vehicle Code.
Under the VC provisions, a motorist commits a DUI violation when driving with a BAC level of 0.08%or more. However, other groups of people will be under different regulations. The two main special groups that should follow separate guidelines are drivers under twenty-one years and persons on probation from previous DUI offenses.
If your matter falls within the special groups, your BAC level should not surpass 0.01%, based on the zero-tolerance policy. The strict policy guidelines prohibit minors and persons on probation from consuming even the smallest alcohol quantities before driving.
However, several exceptions are available for people who consume alcohol-based products like medicine or drinks passed out during religious ceremonies. Nevertheless, you will have to prove your claims’ validity by displaying medical prescriptions or presenting witnesses during the ceremony where small alcohol measures were available.
While checking your BAC level statistics should be straightforward, the matter becomes more complicated when you refuse to submit to DUI tests. An officer can only verify your intoxication level by subjecting you to a chemical breath test, urine, or blood test.
Hence, refusing to undertake the tests gives the arresting officers a hard time checking their blood alcohol content. Consequently, your DMV hearing will take on a new approach to determine if you knew that your refusal would bear adverse outcomes.
Therefore, the DMV officer may ask you if the arresting traffic officers explained the dangers of refusing to submit to a chemical or blood test. Among the information you should have received, the officers should specify and tell you of the possible license suspensions that last up to one year or license revocations lasting for two to three years.
The DMV officer will also need to know whether you refused to intentionally submit to the DUI tests, despite receiving information from the traffic officers. Establishing whether your refusal was wilful is essential, as some defendants may have been too drunk to understand the consequences of their actions.
Therefore, the DMV officer may ask direct questions to check whether you fully understood the consequences of declining a DUI test despite the traffic officers’ warnings and recommendations.
Your Entitlements During the Administrative DMV Hearing
After considering all relevant issues, the officer will then issue a final decision on whether to suspend or retain your license. However, before making a final deliberation, you will have the chance to present your case in defense of your actions.
With your criminal defense lawyer present, you will have an easier time exercising your rights that aim to prevent an unfair hearing. Legal services from your attorney become necessary because of the technicalities involved in some of the processes. The DMV hearing process gives you a right to:
Conduct Witness Cross-examination
When the DMV summons witnesses to provide evidence against you in an administrative hearing, your criminal defense lawyer can conduct a cross-examination to bring out any inconsistencies that discredit accusations made against you.
During a cross-examination, your lawyer will go over the initial testimonies provided by each witness and carefully single out statements that you genuinely believe are false. For example, if a traffic officer appears as a witness and testifies about your violent behavior before the arrest, a cross-examination may lead to depicting false or exaggerated statements.
Your lawyer may rely on other credible sources of information like surveillance footage to bring out the contradiction of witness testimony. If victorious, you stand better chances of retaining your drivers’ license.
Challenging Evidential Sources
Moreover, you have the right to a reasonable opportunity for challenging evidentiary sources brought against you in a DMV hearing. Some of the main reasons you may want to challenge the evidence include police misconduct and evidence presented based on false facts.
When challenging evidence on police misconduct grounds, your lawyer should specify the type of engagements you believe the officers to have conducted. Often, misconduct involves entering false or exaggerated information in police reports to serve as written evidence.
Also, you may face coercion or duress to admit to guilt from traffic officers with malicious intention. For example, the officers may threaten to change your DUI test results to a higher level if you do not admit to drunk driving, leading to more severe charges and penalties.
The officer may also alter the test results to create additional consequences for your matter by contaminating your test samples or deliberately using faulty DUI devices when subjecting you to the breathalyzer test.
Suppose you and your attorney gather sufficient proof to justify claims of police misconduct. In that case, the DMV officer will allow you to retain your license based on the unlawful provision of evidence. On top of this, all evidence obtained through the unfair conduct will be discarded, meaning that it will apply to your case.
However, we recommend providing persuasive sources of proof, as accusations of police misconduct may pose severe repercussions for the involved parties. Therefore, you want to source valid evidence that demonstrates your plight to avoid making false accusations that could cost the officers their jobs.
Presenting Witnesses and Issuing Subpoenas to Interested Parties
You can also present your witnesses and request the DMV office to allow subpoenas to summon parties to provide relevant information during the hearing. Thanks to a subpoenaed document, you get to gather even witnesses you may not know personally to testify for your case.
Provide a Testimony on Your Behalf
Further, the DMV officer handling your case will avail you the chance to provide testimony on your behalf, provided that the information you give is relevant and credible to your matter.
Therefore, you will have a chance to state what happened and bring out issues that the investigation officers may have missed. With services from a criminal defense lawyer, you will present a convincing testimony that may also serve as a defense for the DUI accusations.
Possible Outcomes of the DMV Administrative Hearing
Like in a court hearing, a DMV officer will issue several penalties after hearing your case and finding you guilty. The penalties vary depending on the nature of your offense and the number of previous convictions you face.
As a first time offender, you will receive a license suspension that lasts for six to ten months. However, you may apply for a restricted license in place of a permanent suspension.
With a restricted license, you may drive to work and a DUI school. However, if your DUI offense caused severe injuries, you will be subject to a mandatory one-year license suspension.
Second-time offenders within ten years will face a two-year license suspension. However, the punishment will face a one- year sentence enhancement if your DUI caused injuries.
For third-time offenders, your suspension lasts for up to three years. However, you may drive without restrictions after installing an Ignition Interlock Device.
Fourth-time DUI offenders also face license suspensions for up to four years. However, you are eligible for sentence enhancements for failing to submit to a breathalyzer test after facing arrest.
Defenses for Use During the DMV Administrative Hearing
Your criminal defense lawyer is available to present several arguments to support your course of action. If successful, the defenses will result in mitigated penalties and possible dropping of charges. Possible defenses to include in your hearing include:
You did not Receive Information on the Effects of Refusing a Chemical Test.
Before an officer can arrest you for a suspected DUI offense, he/she must state the consequences of failing to submit to the breathalyzer or chemical tests. The warnings serve as a disclaimer for the legal repercussions.
However, some officers take your initial refusal to submit to the test as the action attracting consequences. Supposing you were unaware of the additional penalties issued in this situation, you may raise the issue as a defense for your actions. In doing so, you will have highlighted the unfair procedure that the officers followed when arresting you.
The Breathalyser Device was Faulty or not Calibrated.
Additionally, you may raise a defense on the faulty nature of the breathalyzer device used to administer the DUI test. If the traffic officers used defective devices, your BAC readings might have been highly inaccurate, leading to false records.
Your lawyer can raise the claim, but he/she should source relevant sources of back up to promote credibility during the hearing.
In other cases, you may have taken a chemical blood test that also yielded inaccurate BAC results. If you suspect that your blood samples faced contamination from mishandling, your attorney can include your defense issue. If credible sources of proof back your claims, you will have a good chance of winning the hearing.
The Traffic Officer Did Not Have Probable Cause to Arrest You.
Further, the law requires all officers to have probable cause for arrest. Usually, police form probable cause by developing reasonable suspicion of your engagements. The doubt may arise from various factors, including behavioral patterns and physical appearance.
For example, if you maneuver your vehicle carelessly before stopping at the DUI checkpoint, the officer may form probable cause to arrest you.
Moreover, the officer can rely on preliminary tests issued to form probable cause. For example, if your preliminary results already indicate a BAC of 0.08% or more, the officers can conduct a lawful arrest.
When your lawyer presents any of the defenses, he/she should select arguments that will justify your claims and shed more light on your innocence. Therefore, it is necessary to engage with your defense attorney as he/she prepares the defenses to provide detailed information that will help your case.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Facing an administrative hearing requires adequate preparations, as you will have your matter before a DMV officer. As a result, you want to ensure that you prepare persuasive evidence and sufficient documents to back your claims and evade the various penalties issued after a hearing. While handling the DMV matter may seem straightforward, it is always better to have a criminal defense attorney by your side, as your case may involve some complexities.
Your criminal defense lawyer will help present clarified defenses and counterarguments to help secure the best outcome. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we dedicate our services to our clients in Los Angeles, California. With our help, you will have a smooth DMV hearing process and enjoy the results of our services. Moreover, your experience will be more relaxed than if you were to work through the hearing alone. To get in touch, call us today at 310-935-1675.