Defending Yourself at the DMV
If you are facing DUI charges, you will be involved in two separate proceedings: the criminal court process and the DMV administrative process. The DMV is only concerned with your driving privileges. As a DUI defendant, you have a right to request an administrative hearing from the DMV. At this hearing, you will have the chance to challenge the DMV's decision to suspend your license.
Exercising Your Rights
You have several rights at DMV administrative hearings, including the right to an attorney (at your expense) and the right to provide testimony. Similar to criminal court hearings, witness testimony plays a big role, too. You have the right to call witnesses to provide testimony on your behalf. The DMV may also call witnesses. Testimony can be oral or written and is essentially used as evidence in proceedings. It can be provided in person by a competent witness or sometimes through written testimony if the witness is unable to attend.
Witness testimony can be powerful because it provides an unbiased point of view. Similarly, sometimes witnesses see things you or the police officer didn't. For this reason, witnesses can provide valuable testimony that can help the DMV make a fair decision about the license suspension. But knowing who to call as a witness and how to ensure your witness attends the hearing and says the right things can be difficult, especially if you aren't familiar with DMV proceedings. You should always consult with an experienced DUI defense attorney when facing DMV administrative proceedings. An attorney can help you determine whether witness testimony can help your case. But, in the meantime, here is some basic information about witness testimony in DMV proceedings.
When contacting a potential witness, you will want to make sure the witness has a clear memory of the incident and can provide testimony on your behalf. You should contact potential witnesses as soon as you can after the incident. A person's memory can fade quickly, and evidence should be preserved as soon as possible after a DUI arrest. You will also want to talk with the witness about what they remember and what information they can confidently provide in the hearing. Testimony must be given under oath.
Expert witnesses can also be helpful in DMV administrative hearings. If you are using an expert witness, you will want to coordinate with an attorney to make sure the witness is providing the right information to support your defense. Remember; the DMV is only concerned with whether or not your license should be suspended. The factors that will be considered are typically limited to whether or not you were lawfully stopped and whether you were driving under the influence.
Asking a witness to attend your hearing might not be enough. If your case hinges on your witnesses' testimony, you should subpoena him or her to ensure attendance. The subpoena compels the witness to appear at the hearing. Once properly subpoenaed, a witness could be found in contempt of court for failing to appear at a hearing and produce the testimony or documents requested. To do this, you must file a subpoena duces tecum and serve it on the witness. Have an attorney help you with this to ensure you complete the process.
Preparing your own witness is only part of the battle. Remember; the DMV might call its own witness, so make sure you submit a written request to get a copy of the DMV's discovery (i.e. the police report, testimony and other pieces of evidence) at least ten days before your hearing date. This can help you determine what evidence, including testimony the DMV has in its possession. With that information, you can build a better defense.
Among the many rights you have when facing a DMV administrative hearing, the right to call witnesses can be one of the most important. Thus, you should always speak with an attorney about using witness testimony at your hearing and review a copy of the testimony the DMV has. An attorney can help you decide whether using witness testimony is right for your case and obtain a copy of the evidence the DMV has far in advance of your hearing date so you can be well prepared to defend yourself. You might also need at attorney to help you subpoena your witness to ensure he or she will appear at the hearing with the valuable evidence you need.
If you are facing DUI charges, call experienced Visalia area DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you build a strategic defense, including witness testimony, to fight your license suspension. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.