What Happens at the DMV Hearing for DUI?

Last Modified: September 1, 2022
August 31, 2022 | Rabin Nabizadeh | DUI

what-happens-at-the-dmv-hearing-for-duiA DUI criminal charge is a heavy indictment requiring several hearings, court appearances, and permissions, including one with the DMV. Even if you are not officially found guilty of a DUI, the DMV in California can suspend your license. You can challenge this license suspension by asking the DMV to hold an administrative proceeding.

Given how challenging it is to prove a DUI case, it is generally safe to say that most people who succeeded in doing so had the correct lawyer. If you want a shot of beating this charge, you must successfully negotiate each stage. All the rules of evidence are in place during the hearing. Therefore, you need an attorney who can challenge evidence and argue your case well.

How Does a DMV Hearing Work?



An agency hearing officer will consider whether to suspend the driver’s license of the arrested person after hearing testimony in the DMV hearing on an alleged DUI case. The hearing is unrelated to the criminal prosecution. At the hearing, drivers have a right to a lawyer, but only at the driver’s expense.

There is no courtroom used for the hearing. Instead, it occurs in a nearby Department of Motor Vehicles office (DMV) or over the phone.

It is not a judge presiding over the hearing; instead, the presider works for the DMV. Most of the time, hearing officers will have specialized training to conduct the hearing but will not hold a legal degree. However, the DMV offers that specific instruction.

The arresting officer will provide testimony about what transpired at the hearing, and they will submit the police reports as proof. Typically, this testimony will disclose details regarding:

  • The probable cause for the traffic stop;
  • How the driver performed or interacted with the police officer;
  • The results of the driver’s field sobriety tests (FSTs),
  • Whether the motorist objected to a chemical or breathalyzer test; and
  • The results of any blood alcohol content (BAC) tests, breathalyzers, urine tests, blood tests, or other assessments the driver underwent

The accused defendant has the opportunity to cross-examine the arresting officer, typically through a criminal defense lawyer. Drivers have the following options in addition to having the police reports and officer cross-examined:

  • Contest more evidence, such as the police report;
  • Issue a subpoena, call additional witnesses; and
  • Speak for themselves in testimony.

To Suspend or Not To Suspend?

The court will decide your license suspension’s terms and duration at a DMV hearing. This hearing is also known as a DUI license suspension hearing. When the police detain you on suspicion of DUI, they will not instantly terminate your license; instead, the court must first find you guilty of the offense.

The arresting officer will seize your license when they pull you over and detain you. They will issue a temporary license or permit and give you a notification of your driver’s license suspension. After 30 days, the driver’s license suspension will become effective.

Additionally, this paper informs you that you have the right to a DUI hearing to lift your license’s suspension. But, only if you request one within ten days of the arrest.

Your license will be immediately suspended at the end of the 30 days if you don’t ask for a hearing within the allotted 10-day time frame. You will eventually be qualified to get your license reinstated once you have:

  • Enroll in a DUI program in California;
  • Provide SR-22 insurance documentation;
  • Pay a reinstatement fee of $125; and
  • Install in your car an ignition interlock device in some circumstances.

The DMV’s Administrative Per se Hearing vs. Criminal Court Proceeding: What’s the Difference?



The primary distinction between the DMV case and the court case is the weight of the punishment, and the latter may result in different or more severe repercussions for the accused. Even for a first DUI, you could face jail time besides fines and fees, probation, and other legal DUI penalties.



How Does Your DUI Court Case Relate to Your DMV Hearing?

The DMV and DUI court hearing processes are entirely different. “Winning” the DMV hearing does not translate into success in the court’s administrative procedure. For whatever reason, the prosecutor might still feel that there is enough solid evidence to proceed with the trial.

The judge also has the authority to revoke or suspend your license if you are finally found guilty of the crime in court. This is why having a California DUI defense lawyer who knows how to win criminal cases in court and at the DMV is crucial.

How Does the Burden of Proof Apply in a DUI Case?



The DMV hearing officers will assess if most evidence establishes that the driver was under the influence after hearing the present evidence. This burden of proof is crucial and distinct from the one in a criminal DUI case. The prosecutor must establish their case in criminal trials beyond a reasonable doubt.

Furthermore, they must provide a preponderance of the evidence in DMV hearings to prove their case. If the evidence demonstrates that it was more likely that the driver was under the influence, this condition is met.

It is simpler for law enforcement to succeed because of the lower standard of proof. At this point in the process, it is crucial to obtain legal help from a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney from an experienced law office to fight DUI charges successfully.

What Are the Elements You Must Prove in a DMV Hearing?

The DMV hearing has a narrow focus; it can only decide if you can keep your driving privileges or not. The hearing officers will take into account many things throughout the hearing, including:

  • Whether you were operating a vehicle (or otherwise under physical control);
  • whether the traffic stop that resulted in your charges and arrest had reasonable cause;
  • Whether the arresting office properly detained you;
  • Whether you had a BAC of 0.08 percent or more while driving a car; and
  • Whether you drove while under the influence of drugs.

Before the state may take away your driving privileges, they must show that you were at fault. The DMV hearing officer will consider all evidence presented by the arresting officer, and they will also assess the outcomes of your field sobriety tests and chemical test (FSTs).

Administrative hearings at the DMV come in a variety of forms. DUI DMV hearings can be complex and confusing, even though most are simple. It is essential to consult with a skilled DUI lawyer who can refute the evidence provided by your arresting officer.

How Can You Schedule a DMV Hearing To Protect Your License?



You must contact the local DMV driver safety branch office to book your DMV DUI hearing. The DMV field offices are distinct from these places. And keep in mind that you have ten calendar days from the date of your arrest to schedule your hearing. You will lose your entitlement to this hearing if you don’t comply.

If you hire a private DUI defense lawyer, they will arrange your DMV DUI hearing on your behalf. If you are not testifying, you do not need to go. Additionally, hearings frequently take place over the phone rather than in person.

What Are the Odds of Winning a DUI DMV Hearing?

Based on the details and circumstances surrounding their arrest, a defendant suspected of driving while intoxicated (DUI) may have a more substantial chance of succeeding in a DMV hearing.

If the police report has a good case, there is a low probability of winning DMV hearings. If the cops messed up during the arrest, those chances are significantly higher. Several variables contribute to the odds of winning, such as:

  • The officer lacked probable cause;
  • The policeman failed to issue a clear directive;
  • A negative breathalyzer test outcome;
  • The policeman did not inform the driver of the repercussions if he declined a chemical test, a blood or breath test; and
  • Refusal of the driver to take the test.

Winning the hearing is not impossible, and drivers should constantly be aware of their administrative hearing rights. Through this, you have the opportunity to contest a license suspension that would otherwise be automatic.

What Happens if You Win a DMV Hearing?



If you prevail in your DMV DUI hearing and the hearing officer dismisses the matter, your driving privileges will remain.

It also means that you might be able to negotiate a better “deal” for your DUI criminal case with the prosecution. For instance, the DUI hearing exposes severe weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Then, it might even persuade the prosecutor to drop all DUI charges against you.

Now, What Happens if You Lose a DMV Hearing?

Even if you lost the DMV DUI hearing, your DUI lawyer might still have managed to bargain. They could even get the prosecution to agree to a lesser charge, and it could result from the information they learned during the hearing.

The DMV may reverse it even after they suspend your driver’s license. They might if you accept a particular plea bargain or win your case in court.

However, if you lose your DMV DUI hearing, your driver’s license will be suspended or revoked, impacting your driving ability. The restriction’s length and specifics will vary depending on whether it is your 1st, 2nd, or subsequent offense.

First DUI Offense

Upon losing your DMV DUI hearing, they will suspend your driving privilege for six to ten months if this is your first DUI arrest. After the first month, you might be eligible to have the suspension changed into a restricted license that permits you to drive only to and from:

  • Work; and
  • Your DUI school in California.

The only exceptions are these. Additionally, your privilege won’t become restricted until you:

  • Enroll in a DUI program in California;
  • Provide SR-22 insurance documentation; and
  • Pay a reinstatement fee of $125.

The California DMV could drop your driver’s license for a year if the DUI harmed a third party. Additionally, you lose your DMV DUI hearing.

Second DUI Offense

They will suspend your license for two years if you lose your California DMV hearing. After a year, you can qualify to have the suspension changed to a limitation. It is possible as long as you continue to follow the rules.

You may be eligible for a restricted license after 90 days if you complete specific requirements. Conditions are:

  • If your DUI involves alcohol solely or plainly drunk driving (as opposed to drugs or even a combination of alcohol and drugs) 
  • There were no additional aggravating elements, including an exceptionally high BAC or a traffic accident.

Following the guidelines outlined above, you can get your restricted license after:

  • The completion of an 18 or 30-month California DUI school; and
  • Documentation proving your installation of an IID.

Third DUI Offense

Your license is suspended for three (3) years if this is your third DUI within ten (10) years. After a year, if you continue to meet the requirements, you might be qualified to have the suspension changed to a restriction.

Suppose the DUI resulted in injury and was your third or subsequent violation within ten (10) years. Then, your driving privileges are suspended in California for five years. If you follow the guidelines above, they can also switch this license to a restricted one after the first year.

Fourth and Subsequent DUI Offense

The fourth or subsequent DUI within ten years makes it a felony DUI. If you happen to lose your DMV hearing, the DMV will suspend your license for four years. After a year, you can qualify to have your license suspended, then restricted. It’s as long as you continue to meet the requirements outlined above.

What Legal Defenses Can You Present in a DMV Hearing To Preserve Your Driving Rights?

At your California DMV DUI hearing, a defense attorney could argue the following:

Lack of Probable Evidence To Affirm Arrest

Suppose the hearing officer had no grounds to believe you were driving under the influence. Then, they should overturn the suspension of your driver’s license. Your California DUI defense attorney could present a variety of defenses on why the police lack enough grounds to make a lawful arrest. For instance, if you were:

  • Observing all traffic regulations and being pulled over only as a result of being the target of racial profiling; and
  • A crash, but you didn’t start drinking until you got home (after which the officers came to interview you).

You Were Arrested at an Illegal DUI Checkpoint



Similarly, you can use it as a defense if they detain you at a California DUI sobriety checkpoint. The detention is unlawful if it does not adhere to the strict legal specifications of California DUI law.

It means that even if you had been driving while intoxicated, the illegal arrest would have negated that fact. And, you would have won your DUI DMV hearing.


The Officer Did Not Follow the Standards of DUI Assessment

Under the California Vehicle Code of Regulations, specific standards exist for assessment (Title 17.) Namely, how to administer, collect, store, and analyze a blood or breath test. If the officer did not strictly adhere to Title 17 criteria, the legality of a California DUI arrest is doubtful.

One of these rules is that an officer must keep a close eye on the suspect before administering a breath test. At least 15 minutes is ideal, and this measure ensures the suspect doesn’t regurgitate, smoke, eat, drink, vomit, or do anything else that could taint the test’s outcomes.

A “victory” at the DMV DUI hearing could result from the arrestee’s blood alcohol content (“BAC”) not being at 0.08 percent or above at the time of driving. It could be determined by the failure to make this observation, which jeopardizes the results.

The Breathalyzer Is Not Calibrated



The maintenance and use of breathalyzers are governed by Title 17 of the vehicle code. These devices must undergo calibration every ten (10) days or 150 “blows.” Your BAC reading might be inaccurate if you gave your breath sample using uncalibrated equipment. Thus, the DMV hearing officer at your DUI hearing must overturn the suspension of your driver’s license.

Consequently, a broken instrument could result in false readings on a DUI breath test.


Rising Blood Alcohol Concentration

You may have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher for several causes. It could even be unrelated to the amount of alcohol you drank for your drunk driving case. Among the following are:

  • Diets of heavy protein and low carbohydrates;
  • A high BAC from medical defenses including GERD, acid reflux, and heartburn; and
  • An erroneously high value resulted from residual “mouth alcohol.”

Despite the findings of your breath test, you might not have been driving with a high BAC. If you had any of these circumstances when you gave your sample, you might be able to prove this at your DMV DUI hearing.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help You With the DMV Hearing?



Facts determine the probability that a driver would prevail at a DMV hearing. If the police violated the motorist’s rights, the driver has a better chance of winning a hearing. You will have a better chance of succeeding if you work with an experienced DUI attorney.

Attorneys with experience managing a criminal case know that authorities can make mistakes throughout the arrest procedure. Whether on purpose or not, these errors may cause persons to face wrongful accusations. Worse, it could lead to facing more severe charges.

Having an attorney on your side can point out these errors in the prosecution’s case. And better, it may defeat your indictment.

Secure Your Driving Rights and Call a DUI Defense Attorney Now



The task of defending yourself in a DUI prosecution is difficult. But, depending on the specifics of your criminal case, you may have legal help and options. Processes and methods differ from state to state, so it’s crucial to speak with a local attorney. They can explain how things operate in your region and assist you in choosing the best course of action to avoid legal issues.

Contact a qualified DUI attorney today if you face charges and arrest for DUI. Here at Summit Defense, we represent clients with diligence. Our law firm can fight for your rights and help you achieve the best result in your case. Call us at 866-847-7613 for a free consultation or send an email using the form on our website.

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