Getting arrested for DUI does not mean you will be convicted. Police misconduct, defective breathalyzers and crime lab mistakes may be enough to get your charges lessened or dismissed. Visit our page on Colorado DUI Laws to learn more.
In DUI criminal cases, the stakes are serious – you could go to jail if convicted. Therefore, the prosecutor has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – which is a very high bar.
Though in administrative hearings – where only your driver’s license is on the line – the state has a much lower burden. The state just has to show the DMV that it was more likely than not (“by a preponderance of the evidence”) that you were in physical control of the vehicle while impaired or with an illegal BAC (blood alcohol level) level.1
Therefore, it is not unusual to win your criminal trial while losing your DMV administrative hearing based on the exact same evidence. Though even though DMV hearings may be difficult to win, it is not impossible.
What are the best DUI defenses to use in a DMV administrative hearing?
The most effective defenses to DUI allegations always turn on the specific facts of the case. Ten potential defense strategies include:
The police lacked reasonable suspicion to pull you over.
The police officer did not observe you for 15 minutes prior to administering the breathalyzer, or more than two hours elapsed between the arrest and taking the breath or blood test.
The breathalyzer was defective, it had not been calibrated recently, or the tech who last calibrated the breathalyzer let their certification lapse.
The blood test results were contaminated.
Depending on the case, potential evidence can include eyewitness testimony, surveillance video, breathalyzer maintenance records, and/or medical records.2
Are DMV hearings automatic?
No, you must request an administrative hearing in order to contest your license suspension. If you took a breath test (or refused to take any test), you must request a DMV hearing within 7 days from the arrest. If you do not request a hearing, the license suspension begins after the seventh day.
10 ways to win a DMV hearing in Colorado
If you took a blood test following the DUI arrest, you may keep your driver’s license until the blood test results come back. At that point, you have 10 days after the letter was sent to request a hearing. If you do not request the hearing, then the license begins after the 10th day.3
Note that if you lose your DMV hearings, you can appeal.4
If you win the DMV hearing, your driver’s license will not be revoked. Any fines or fees that were assessed related to the case will be dismissed or refunded, and the DMV will remove any pending action from your driving record.
Note that even if you win the DMV hearing, you can still get convicted of DUI in criminal court and have your license suspended after all. The DMV case and criminal case are separate, and the only way to keep your license is to win both.
Should I hire an attorney for my DMV hearing?
Yes, if at all possible. Having an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney increases the odds of winning DMV hearings. In practice, administrative judges take you more seriously if you are represented by counsel.
Plus, the DMV hearing is a good dry run for the DUI criminal case. Even though the DMV case is far more informal than a criminal trial, the DMV hearing is a valuable setting for the defense lawyer to test certain arguments and probe the police’s testimony. This can help the attorney determine how best to fight the charges in the criminal case.
Michael Becker has over a quarter-century's worth of experience as an attorney and more than 100 trials under his belt. He is a sought-after legal commentator and is licensed to practice law in Colorado, Nevada, California, and Florida.