Your Legal Rights
According to both the state and federal constitution, you have a right to due process of the law. That right applies to both criminal and civil court and administrative systems, such as the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV must provide a hearing before taking action against your driving privilege, just as you have a right to a hearing before you are convicted in a criminal court. Unfortunately, many people aren't aware of their rights when it comes to DMV proceedings, so they don't take action when the DMV threatens to suspend their license. For many, the stakes aren't that high. If you don't drive for a living or are a commercial driver with a CDL, you might not be motivated to fight your license suspension, especially if you don't have a lot of experience dealing with the DMV.
If you have more at stake—your job for example—you might want to take the time to learn about your rights and how you can defend them when facing action from the DMV.
Although you have a constitutional right to an administrative hearing before the DMV, many defendants fail to exercise it. As a result, many lose their license simply because they don't request a hearing and demand due process. Losing your license because of failure to act only benefits the DMV. That being said, you should always request a DMV administrative hearing when facing a license suspension, even if you feel like you have no chance of prevailing. Letting the DMV suspend your license without due process is like surrendering your rights.
The right to an administrative hearing isn't the only right you have when facing DMV proceedings. You also have many rights that are similar to the rights you have when facing criminal charges.
You have the right to an attorney. But, unlike cases heard in the criminal court, the DMV will not appoint you an attorney if you cannot afford one. Attorney representation comes at your expense. Nevertheless, the right to an attorney is an important one that you should take advantage of. There is no substitute for having an experienced attorney prepare you for your DMV hearing. An attorney who has represented clients in DMV proceedings before will know how to maximize your chance of prevailing.
You also have a right to examine and challenge the evidence against you. If you plan to do this, however, make sure you consult with an experienced attorney first. The burden of proof is more easily satisfied in DMV hearings, meaning every piece of evidence matters. You might also need an attorney to obtain copies of the DMV's evidence before the hearing. Without that evidence, you don't know what you are challenging. It's best to get a copy of the evidence as far in advance as possible so you can plan your defense.
You have a right to call witnesses who will testify on your behalf. Consider any witnesses to the offense or experts that can help you challenge the DMV's evidence. Similarly, you have a right to cross-examine witnesses, meaning you can ask the DMV's witnesses questions.
You have a right to provide testimony. Again, you should speak with an attorney before you choose to do this, so you know what to say and what not to say. You can risk self-incrimination if you say the wrong thing during the hearing. You might have important pieces of information that can strengthen your case, but you need to be careful about what information you provide and what information you withhold.
Lastly, you have a right to a full review and consideration of the facts by an impartial figure and to appeal an adverse decision made against you.
Speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney if you are facing administrative proceedings with the DMV. Even if you are facing criminal charges for the same offense, you need to take your DMV proceedings just as seriously and demand due process of the law. An attorney can explain your rights and help you request an administrative hearing so you can defend them.
Are you facing a license suspension? If so, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for expert counsel. Experienced in driving crime defense, our Visalia area legal team can advise you of your options and help you take steps to keep you on the road. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Christopher Martens will aggressively defend your rights at trial and help you get the outcome you want. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.