California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
How to Prepare for a DMV Hearing
A DMV DUI hearing is an administrative hearing held at a California Department of Motor Vehicle office for the sole purpose of determining whether or not a person’s 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, parties 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. Drivers appearing at a California Department of Motor Vehicle hearing have the right to raise a legal defense/disclaimer.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 drivers showing that:
Yes. Drivers can present their own evidence at a DMV hearing.
Once a person determines the best defense to raise at the hearing, the party should then gather and organize any evidence that supports that defense.3
A few common forms of evidence include:
As to witness statements, drivers can either submit written witness statements into evidence, or they can have a witness attend the hearing process and present live testimony. Further, a driver can issue a subpoena to help ensure that a witness will attend a hearing to testify.
Yes. At the hearing, the driver is informed of the legal grounds for the action and has the opportunity to review and challenge the DMV’s evidence.4
The DMV must provide the driver 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 than a court proceeding for an alleged DUI charge.
If a person is arrested for DUI in California, the driver will face two separate legal proceedings:
As stated above, the DMV hearing can result in a suspended license/revocation of the motorist’s driving privileges.
In court, however, a judge or jury determines whether or not the defendant driver, arrested in a DUI case, is actually guilty of the offense.
The evidence that the DMV presents at a DMV hearing is typically the same evidence that a prosecutor presents in a criminal case.
Yes. Motorists are allowed to attend a hearing with evidence that supports their case and any notes to help present that evidence.
In fact, people attending DMV hearings are encouraged to prepare a script prior to their hearing date.
They should put any words that they want to say onto paper. This way, in the event a party gets nervous, he/she can still say what is necessary to win the hearing.
Yes. A motorist can choose to have a criminal defense attorney represent him/her at a DMV DUI hearing.
In reality, it is usually best if a DUI lawyer/DUI defense attorney represents a person at a hearing.
A hearing lawyer is better skilled in finding and presenting legal strategies to defend against DMV evidence.
Further, attorneys can help motorists find critical proof and exhibits that helps support their cases.
Keep in mind that most criminal defense lawyers offer free consultations. This means people can visit a law office and receive legal advice about a hearing without spending a dime.
Also, any information that a driver discusses 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, 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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