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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The chances of winning your DMV hearing depend on the facts of the case. If law enforcement has a weak case or clearly violated your 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.
If you have been arrested and accused of driving under the influence (DUI), the odds of winning your DMV hearing depend on the facts and circumstances of the arrest. If police have a strong case for drunk driving, the odds of winning at the DMV hearing are low.
If the 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. You should strongly consider invoking your right to have the administrative hearing. Doing so can challenge what would otherwise be an automatic driver’s license suspension.
Furthermore, DMV hearings are like “dry runs” for the criminal case. It allows the criminal defense attorney to
This, in turn, could contribute to the criminal case getting reduced or dismissed.
The DMV hearing is the administrative prong of a DUI or DWI case. It is where the 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 your driving privileges. Unlike in a criminal case, the DMV case cannot
During the DUI arrest, the arresting officer will confiscate your driver’s license. The officer will give you a pink “Notice of Suspension” paper. This Notice serves as a temporary, 30-day license. Once these 30 days expire, your driver’s license will be suspended.
The Notice also tells you of your right to a DMV hearing, formally known as a Driver Safety Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing, to prevent this impending suspension. However, you have to request this hearing within 10 days of the arrest.
If you do not invoke this right in 10 days, you will lose it. The hearing will not be scheduled. There will be an automatic suspension of your license when the temporary Notice expires in 30 days.
Once the hearing is scheduled, your 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, you 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 you were 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 you were under the influence, he or she will
The officer will set aside the action and reverse the suspension
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 you were 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 your car and claims to be you.
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 you actually driving your vehicle.
Police officers need to have probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. Examples would be
Pulling you over for no reason – or due to racial profiling – would violate your rights. When officers violate your 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 you refuse to submit to a chemical BAC test, the police officer must tell you of the consequences of doing so (which includes a one-year license suspension). This notification
If the officer does not do this, the hearing officer may set aside the license suspension.
Driving impaired with a legal BAC of below 0.08% can often be the basis to get the license suspension set aside.
Refusing a chemical BAC test leads to an automatic license suspension. However, you actually have to refuse the chemical test, first.
There is no refusal of the chemical test when:
If you lose your DMV hearing, the license suspension will go into effect. In California, the duration of the suspension before you can get the license back depends on your 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
Additionally, underage or commercial drivers have to abide by lower legal limits and may face additional consequences, even if it was a first misdemeanor offense and you otherwise have a clean driving record and no prior license revocations.
However, if you had your license suspended, you 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, 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.