California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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Chances of Winning DMV Hearing » Chances of Winning DMV Hearing
The chances of a driver winning his or her DMV hearing depend on the facts of the case. If law enforcement has a weak case or clearly violated the driver’s rights, it is easier to win at the hearing. Regardless of the case, hiring a skilled DUI attorney increases the likelihood of getting a good outcome.
The odds of a driver who has been arrested and accused of driving under the influence (DUI) winning their DMV hearing depend on the facts and circumstances of the arrest. If police have a strong case, the odds of winning at the DMV hearing are low. If police made a mistake during the arrest, the odds are much higher. The legal advice of a DUI lawyer or criminal defense lawyer can increase the odds of success.
Factors that can increase or decrease the chances of a successful outcome include:
The odds of winning the hearing are not zero. Drivers should always strongly consider invoking their right to have the administrative hearing. Doing so can challenge what would otherwise be an automatic driver’s license suspension.
The DMV hearing is the administrative prong of a DUI or DWI case. It is where the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will decide whether to suspend your license for a DUI arrest.
Anyone who has been arrested for suspected drunk or drugged driving in California will face 2 different legal proceedings:
This DMV hearing is strictly limited to the defendant’s driving privileges. Unlike in the criminal case, the DMV case cannot send the defendant to jail or put them on probation.
During the DUI arrest, the arresting officer will confiscate the driver’s license. He or she will give the driver a pink “Notice of Suspension” paper. This Notice serves as a temporary, 30-day license. Once these 30 days expire, the driver’s license will be suspended. The Notice also tells the driver of his or her right to a DMV hearing, formally known as a Driver Safety Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing, to prevent this impending suspension. However, the driver has to request this hearing within 10 days of the arrest.
If the driver does not invoke this right in 10 days, he or she will lose it. The hearing will not be scheduled. There will be an automatic suspension of their license when the temporary Notice expires in 30 days.
Once the hearing is scheduled, the driver’s license suspension will be put on hold until the hearing’s outcome.
The hearing, itself, is held at the DMV, not a criminal court. It can even be held over the phone. The hearing officer is a DMV employee, not a judge. These employees rarely have legal training. During this hearing, defendants have a right to:
The DMV hearing officer will listen to evidence from both sides. He or she will then decide whether a preponderance of the evidence shows that the driver was under the influence. This burden of proof is substantially lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard needed in the criminal prong of a DUI case.
If the hearing officer decides that the driver was under the influence, he or she will sustain the action and uphold the license suspension. The officer will set aside the action and reverse the suspension if there is not sufficient evidence, or if the driver successfully raises a defense.
There are numerous DUI defense strategies that can be used at the DMV hearing. Some of the most common are:
Even if these prove unsuccessful, a DUI defense lawyer can use the hearing to gather evidence that the prosecutor’s case is weak. This can lead to a better plea deal or an acquittal at the criminal trial.
If the defendant in the DMV hearing was not driving the vehicle, the hearing officer should reverse the suspension. This can be a strong defense in 2 circumstances:
The first situation can happen if someone else was in the defendant’s car and claims to be the defendant.
The second situation is more common, though. It often involves a driver who gets into their car to sleep off the effects of alcohol or drugs. If a police officer makes a DUI arrest in this case, it would be an unlawful arrest because the officer has to witness the driver actually drive their vehicle.
Police officers need to have probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. Pulling drivers over for no reason would violate their rights. When officers violate someone’s rights and then find evidence of a crime, that evidence can be suppressed and kept out of court. This also applies to DMV hearings.
A skilled criminal defense attorney can show that there was no probable cause to support a particular traffic stop.
Whenever a California driver refuses to submit to a chemical BAC test, the police officer must tell the driver of the consequences of doing so. This notification is in writing, and the officer has to read it to the driver, word for word. If the officer does not do this, the hearing officer may set aside the license suspension.
Refusing a chemical BAC test leads to an automatic license suspension. However, the driver actually has to refuse the chemical test, first. This can become an issue if:
If the driver loses his or her DMV hearing, the license suspension will go into effect. In California, the duration of the suspension depends on the driver’s criminal record:
|In the last 10 years, this is your…||Suspension duration|
|First DUI offense||6 to 10 months|
|Second DUI offense||2 years|
|Third DUI offense||3 years|
|Fourth or subsequent DUI offense||4 years|
The duration may be longer if the DUI caused an injury1 or if the driver refused a chemical breath or blood test.2 Additionally, underage or commercial drivers have to abide by lower legal limits and may face additional consequences, even if it was a first offense.
However, drivers who have had their licenses suspended may be eligible for:
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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