Navigating Your DMV Case
The California Department of Motor Vehicles suspends the license of anyone arrested for a DUI. The suspension is automatic under the Admin Per Se law. The suspension starts 30 days after the date of the arrest. This process is separate from the criminal court process. Even if you are found not guilty of a DUI by the criminal court, the DMV may still suspend your license. So, before you get behind the wheel after winning your criminal case, here's what you need to know.
Since DUI trials could take several weeks to be scheduled, chances are good the DMV will commence your license suspension before you even go to court. If you haven't reached that point, however, and plan on taking your case to trial, you should request an administrative hearing with the DMV. Requesting a DMV hearing does two things; it places a stay on your suspension and gives you a chance to beat your license suspension. A stay means your suspension will not commence until you've had your hearing.
The DMV gives you the right to appear before a hearing officer and defend yourself before the suspension goes into effect. Step one after a DUI arrest should be requesting a hearing through the DMV. This way there is a chance you could resolve your criminal court case before your DMV hearing. Once you win your criminal case, prevailing at your DMV hearing will be relatively straightforward.
If the DMV suspends your license before you win your criminal court case, getting your license back might be a little harder. How the DMV handles your suspension at this point depends on how you “won” your case.
If your DUI case went to trial and the verdict was not guilty, you can give the DMV proof of your acquittal. Then, you can apply to have your license reinstated. The DMV will confirm the verdict and begin the reinstatement process. If you plead no contest to avoid pleading guilty, the DMV treats your conviction the same and will likely not lift your license suspension.
If the county prosecutor decided to not file formal criminal charges after your arrest or your case was dropped because of lack of evidence, this usually means the court did not have a strong case for your DUI. In these circumstances, the DMV may reinstate your license. Again, if you had requested a DMV administrative hearing and the criminal court dropped your case, prevailing at your hearing could be simple, which is why it is so important to always request a DMV hearing after a DUI arrest. Don't wait to hear whether the prosecutor decided to file charges; request a DMV hearing anyway.
If your charges were dropped because you worked out a deal with the prosecuting attorney (i.e., a plea bargain), it might be harder to get your license back. Even if you leave the criminal court without an actual DUI conviction, the DMV will not automatically lift your suspension. You will have to request a hearing and argue your case. This can be a difficult case to argue, so you should always have an experienced California DUI defense attorney help you.
If the criminal court convicted you of wet reckless driving, however, your chance of getting your license back is slim. The DMV will view this conviction as the same as a DUI, and the Admin Per Se law will still apply. If the DMV suspended your license, the suspension would remain in effect. If your suspension was not yet in effect or was stayed, the suspension would commence as it normally would.
California DUI cases are complex because you have to deal with two separate proceedings: one through the DMV and one through the criminal court. While they operate independently, the results of your criminal case could affect your DMV case. Always speak with a DUI defense attorney with experience handling DMV cases when facing DUI charges. Make sure you work with an attorney who has successfully handled DMV DUI cases to have the best chance of avoiding a license suspension.
Have you been arrested for a DUI? If so, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for expert counsel. Experienced in DUI defense, our Visalia area legal team can advise you of your options and help you take steps to prepare a defense, giving you a better chance of keeping your license. 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.