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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A DMV DUI hearing is an administrative hearing held at the Department of Motor Vehicle office for the sole purpose of determining whether or not your driver’s license should be suspended following a DUI arrest. The hearing is a separate process from the criminal court proceeding for the DUI charge.
In preparing for a hearing, you should do the following:
At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer can:
If the officer sets aside the action, it is equivalent to receiving a not guilty verdict.
Yes. You have the right to raise a legal defense/disclaimer at a DMV hearing.1
A hearing officer will issue a driver’s license suspension if the officer finds that:
Effective defenses, therefore, are ones that refute the above findings. Other common defenses include showing that:
Yes. You can present your own evidence at a DMV hearing.
Once you determine the best defense to raise at the hearing, you should then gather and organize any evidence that supports that defense.2
A few common forms of evidence include:
As to witness statements, you can either submit written witness statements into evidence, or you can have a witness attend the hearing process and present live testimony. Further, you can issue a subpoena to help ensure that a witness will attend a hearing to testify.
Yes. At the hearing, you are informed of the legal grounds for the action and have the opportunity to review and challenge the DMV’s evidence.3
The DMV must provide you with any evidence it intends to present at the hearing before the hearing begins. This evidence is normally the police report of the arresting officer.
Note that a DMV hearing is a separate and distinct matter from a court proceeding for an alleged DUI charge.
If you are arrested for DUI, you will face two separate legal proceedings:
As stated above, the DMV hearing can result in a suspended license/revocation of your driving privileges.
In court, however, a judge or jury determines whether or not you are actually guilty of DUI.
The evidence that the DMV presents at a DMV hearing is typically the same evidence that a prosecutor presents in a criminal case.
Yes. You are allowed to attend a hearing with evidence that supports your case and any notes to help present that evidence.
In fact, you are encouraged to prepare a script prior to your hearing date.
You should put any words that you want to say onto paper. This way, in the event you get nervous, you can still say what is necessary to win the hearing.
Yes. You can choose to have a criminal defense attorney represent you at a DMV DUI hearing.
In reality, it is usually best if a DUI lawyer/DUI defense attorney represents you at a hearing.
A hearing lawyer is better skilled in finding and presenting legal strategies to defend against DMV evidence.
Further, attorneys can help you find critical proof and exhibits that help support your case.
Keep in mind that most criminal defense lawyers offer free consultations. This means you can visit a law office and receive legal advice about a hearing without spending a dime.
Also, any information that you discuss with a lawyer is protected by the attorney-client relationship. Therefore, the lawyer cannot reveal this information to another party.
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.