Two Actions: The DMV and the Court
As part of any DUI case, there are two separate legal processes taking place: the criminal court process and the DMV process. The DMV process is administrative. Unless you request a DMV administrative review hearing, the DMV will automatically suspend your license is you are arrested for a DUI. You don't to be convicted for this to happen. If you request a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest, however, you will have the chance to appear before a hearing officer and argue your case. The sole purpose of these hearings is to challenge the DMV's decision to suspend your license. If you prevail at this hearing, your license suspension will not go into effect. If you do not prevail, your license will be suspended.
DMV administrative hearings are not the same as criminal court hearings. The criminal court prosecutes you for your offense. The DMV simply handles the administrative actions taken against your California driving privileges. The DMV hearing is not a place to fight against your charges. You cannot simply stand up and tell your side of the story. Anyone who attempts this will be put in his or her place. Rather, DMV administrative hearings are review hearings wherein the basic facts of the case are examined. In a DUI case, these are limited to a few specific elements. Let's take a look at the specific issues that are addressed in DMV administrative hearings and what that means for your case.
- Did the officer have probable cause to pull you over? The copy of the police report should provide the reason for the stop. Have an attorney review the report for you to determine whether the officer has sufficient probable cause.
- Was the arrest lawful? The officer must have had reason to believe you had committed a crime to put you under arrest. Again, look to the police report for this information, and have an attorney help you if you plan to refute it.
- Did your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) meet or exceed the .08% legal threshold? Note that if you are under 21 or a commercial driver, the legal threshold is much lower. Take a look at the BAC test results, and get an independent analysis of your blood sample, if you provided one.
- If the officer stated you refused to take a chemical test (breath or blood) to test your BAC, did the officer notify you of the consequences of refusing and did you actually willfully refuse to take a test?
These are the basic issues that will be addressed at your DMV administrative hearing. If you can successfully refute one or more of these issues, you may prevail at your hearing. The hearing officer will review these issues using the evidence at hand and decide whether or not to suspend your license based on the allegation.
DMV hearings are similar to criminal court hearings is a few ways. One, you have a right to challenge evidence being held against you and can even call witnesses and provide testimony yourself. You also have the right to an attorney, and it's highly recommended you have a skilled attorney represent you in both the criminal court and DMV proceedings. There are also major differences between these two types of hearings. DMV hearings are much less formal; they don't take place before a judge and take place in an office rather than a courtroom. The burden of proof is easier to meet in DMV hearings as well. But even if the hearing officer decides to set aside the action (i.e. decides to not suspend your license), it does not necessarily mean your criminal case will be dropped. Again, your criminal case proceeding is separate from your DMV administration proceeding. It is important to understand the differences between the two proceedings before you make any decisions in your case.
Speak with a skilled California DUI defense attorney with experience handling both DMV and criminal DUI proceedings. An attorney can help you refute the relevant issues at your DMV hearing, and this could help save your license. Your attorney can also help you navigate the criminal court process, which is more formal and has stricter legal standards.
If you have questions about DMV hearings, call experienced Visalia area DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can advise you of your rights and help you challenge your suspension at your DMV administrative hearing. 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.