California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
If you win your DMV hearing, the hearing officer will set aside the action. This restores your driving privileges. If the threatened license suspension came from a case of driving under the influence (DUI) or another criminal offense, it will end the administrative per se hearing process.
A victory at the DMV hearing can help defend drivers in criminal court.
Drivers who win their hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will have their driving privileges restored. The hearing officer will set aside the action to suspend the driver’s license. The driver can leave the hearing with their driving privileges intact.
Traffic violations and other circumstances that can trigger a suspension and a DMV hearing include:
At this hearing, the driver can contest the pending license suspension. Effective defenses will depend on the particular case. For example, some common defenses that drivers make to a DWI or DUI suspension include:
During the DMV hearing, drivers have rights. These rights ensure that they have the means and the opportunity to raise one of these defenses. For example, drivers have the right to:
After weighing the evidence, the DMV hearing officer will decide whether to:
Note that the DMV hearing only impacts the driver’s license suspension. The DMV hearing officer cannot impose other penalties, like fines or jail time.
Law enforcement or the DMV has to meet the burden of proof in order to sustain the license suspension. However, the burden of proof is much lower in DMV hearings than it is in criminal cases. In criminal cases, prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. In DMV hearings, a case only has to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the hearing officer will suspend the driver’s license if it was more likely than not that a suspension is justified.
A victory at the DMV hearing for a suspension related to driving under the influence or any other criminal traffic violation can help in the pending criminal case. It can lead to a more generous plea deal, or can even convince the prosecutor to drop the charge. However, this is not automatic or guaranteed. In fact, drivers can win their DMV hearing, but then lose their criminal DUI case and see their license get suspended, anyway.
If law enforcement fails at persuading the DMV hearing officer to sustain the license suspension, it is a strong sign that their case is flawed or weak. At the DMV hearing, they only have to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. If they cannot show that it was more likely than not that the driver was under the influence or committed the traffic violation, then they are even less likely to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Many prosecutors will read a successful defense in the DMV case as a reason to offer a generous plea bargain. In some cases, they may even drop the charges, altogether.
However, some other prosecutors will press forward with their criminal DUI case, even after a loss at the DMV hearing. If they continue to press DUI charges and the court case goes to trial, and then the defendant gets convicted, he or she may see their license suspended, after all.
In California, DMV hearings can be requested to contest a pending license suspension. They can happen if:
If the suspension stems from a failed reexamination or a medical condition, it is formally called a Physical and Mental Condition hearing, or “P&M Hearing.” If it follows an arrest, it is a Driver Safety Administrative Per Se hearing, or “APS Hearing.” If the suspension is for having too many points on the driver’s record, it is a Negligent Operator Treatment System, or “NOTS Hearing.”
Regardless of the type of DMV hearing you have, establishing an attorney-client relationship with a lawyer from a local law office can help you avoid a revocation and get your license back.
In California, DMV hearings for license suspensions stemming from a DUI arrest have to be requested by the driver.
When a driver is arrested on suspicion of DUI in California, the arresting officer will confiscate the driver’s license. The officer will give the driver a Notice of Suspension. This Notice, which is on a pink sheet of paper, serves as a temporary license. It only works for 30 days.
The Notice will tell the driver that he or she has the right to a DMV hearing to challenge the pending license suspension. The driver, however, has to request this hearing within 10 days of the arrest. If the driver does not make the request in this timeframe, his or her license will automatically get suspended.
The potential suspension will depend on several factors, including:
The legal advice of a DUI lawyer from a reputable law firm can help reduce the potential suspension. A lawyer can also help drivers get back on the road by obtaining a restricted license or by installing an ignition interlock device (IID).
The DMV administrative hearing to contest this potential suspension will be held at a local California DMV safety branch office.
Drivers who request a DMV hearing and then win will avoid this automatic license suspension. Even though they will have secured a license reinstatement, they will still have to go through the criminal DUI case.
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.