UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, all DMV hearings will be done over the telephone. People who prefer in-person hearings may request them, but they will be delayed indefinitely.
Admin per se hearings are proceedings at the DMV that take place after a DUI arrest. In California, the DMV automatically suspends the license of a driver who’s been arrested for drunk driving with a BAC level (blood alcohol content) of .08% or higher. These DMV hearings give drivers the chance to challenge the suspension.
A motorist must request this hearing within 10 days of his/her arrest. If not made within this time period, the DMV immediately suspends the person’s driving privileges.
All admin per se hearings are conducted at a DMV driver safety office. A driver is afforded an opportunity to challenge the Department’s case. If successful, the license suspension will be “set aside.”
If the DMV finds against the driver for driving while intoxicated, it can suspend the person’s license for:
- up to four months (if a first-time DUI conviction), or
- up to one year (if a second or subsequent DUI conviction).
Note that these penalties are in addition to any DUI penalties ordered by a criminal court.
Our California DUI defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What is an admin per se DMV hearing?
- 2. How does a person get a hearing?
- 3. What happens at the hearing?
- 4. What penalties can the DMV impose?
- 5. Are these the same penalties imposed by a criminal court?
1. What is an admin per se DMV hearing?
An admin per se hearing is a proceeding that takes place at the DMV (California Department of Motor Vehicles) after a DUI arrest.
The arrest in question is for when a person drives with a blood alcohol level of .08% or higher (which is above the legal limit). The hearing gets its name from California’s “per se” DUI law found in Vehicle Code 23152b VC. This law makes it a crime for a person to:
- operate a vehicle, and
- do so with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.1
The DMV automatically suspends a person’s driving privileges after an arrest for a per se DUI offense.2
An administrative per se hearing is when a driver challenges this suspension.
Note that drivers must request these hearings. If they do not, then the DMV’s suspension immediately goes into effect.3
2. How does a person get a hearing?
Following an arrest for per se DUI, a person must request an admin per se hearing.
This request must come within the first 10 days of the arrest. If a request is not made before this deadline, the DMV automatically suspends the person’s license.
The law enforcement officer seizes a person’s driver’s license after a DUI arrest. The officer also gives the driver a “Notice of Suspension,” which has a phone number on it. The arrested driver must call this number (or fax in a request) to schedule an admin per se hearing. If the driver has already hired a DUI attorney, then the attorney will usually contact the DMV to schedule the hearing.
The other option is for the driver to contact the Driver Safety Office. There are several of these in California and the arrestee contacts the office for the area where the arrest occurred.
Once a driver requests an administrative hearing, the DMV issues a 30-day temporary driver’s license. There are situations when the DMV does not conduct a hearing within 30 calendar days. When this happens, the Department will grant a “Stay of Suspension” following the 30 days.4
A Stay of Suspension stops an administrative license suspension, and this temporary license remains in effect. The subject driver is granted unrestricted driving privileges until:
- a hearing is conducted, and
- the DMV makes a suspension decision.
Example: On May 1, Heather is arrested by a police officer for first offense DUI for driving with a BAC of .08, as indicated by a preliminary alcohol screening and field sobriety tests. Upon arrest, the arresting officer takes her driver’s license, and she submits to a breath BAC test. Heather calls the Driver Safety Office two days later and schedules an admin per se hearing for June 1. The DMV contacts Heather on May 28 and says it has to re-schedule her hearing until June 18.
Here, due to the re-scheduling, the DMV issues Heather a Stay of Suspension. She then has unrestricted driving privileges until the new hearing date – June 18.
3. What happens at the hearing?
All administrative per se hearings are conducted at a DMV office.
The admin per se hearings are held before a DMV hearing officer. This is a DMV employee and is not:
- a judge, or
- an attorney.
A driver may challenge the Department’s evidence against him or her. A license suspension will be set aside if the driver is successful.
Note that unlike a criminal case, a person is presumed to have driven with an excessive BAC in an admin per se hearing. It is up to the driver to prove to the DMV that its evidence is wrong. Typical evidence includes the police report and the breath test, urine test, or blood test results. Note that the BAC limit is lower for commercial drivers of commercial vehicles, for people on DUI probation, and for underage drivers (California has a zero tolerance policy for under-21 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol).
A hearing runs similar to a California criminal trial. The DMV and the driver have the opportunity to present evidence and prove their respective cases. Note that a driver has the right to be represented by an attorney at these hearings.
After the evidence is presented, the hearing officer rules for or against the driver. If for, then an order of suspension is set aside. If against, the officer orders a period of license suspension or revocation.
4. What penalties can the DMV impose?
The DMV can order a variety of penalties under administrative per se law.
For a first per se DUI crime, the Department can suspend a driver’s license for four months. A driver can apply for a restricted license after the first 30 days of aps suspension.
For a second per se DUI, the DMV can order a one-year license suspension. However, the California DMV usually allows defendants punished with a year suspension to:
- continue driving anywhere during their license suspension, if
- they agree to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their cars.5
Note that the DMV will suspend a person’s license for one year if he/she refused a chemical test of his/her blood or breath.
Note that drivers need SR22 insurance in order to reinstate their license following an admin per se suspension.
5. Are these the same penalties imposed by a criminal court?
The penalties issued at an administrative per se hearing are separate from any penalties ordered by a criminal court case.
This means California drivers can be punished twice for the same DUI charges. Once by the DMV through an administrative suspension period, and once by the criminal judge through fines, possibly jail, and other terms.
For additional help…
For legal advice or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. Our law office serves clients throughout the state, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and more. Should you wish to create an attorney-client relationship with our DUI lawyers, we can discuss discount rates and payment plans.
- California Vehicle Code 23152b VC. DMV admin per se hearings are abbreviated DMV APS hearings.
- Driver license suspensions required for VC 23152b DUI cases are regulated by California Vehicle code sections 13350 VC et seq.
- California DMV website – Driving Under the Influence: Age 21 and Older (FFDL 35).
- See same.