DMV hearings are administrative proceedings separate from the criminal court. Generally speaking, a hearing is a brief proceeding used to establish certain facts or issues relevant to the case. Typically, a hearing involves both the presentation of evidence and arguments. On these points, DMV hearings are similar to court hearings. But DMV hearings are heard before an administrative hearing officer, not a judge.
The Hearing Officer
Administrative hearing officers aren't judges, so they cannot make decisions about your criminal case. They cannot convict you or sentence you. The DMV is the authority that handles your driving privileges. It can grant, suspend, restrict, and revoke driving privileges. The hearing officer is an extension of this administrative body and is only concerned with your driving privileges at the hearing.
At a DMV administrative hearing, the hearing officer will only consider a few issues. Because the DMV is not involved in your criminal case, it doesn't care whether you are guilty or innocent. Rather, the hearing officer is only concerned with whether or not your license should be suspended. And this is decided based on a few factors:
- Whether the police officer had probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence
- Whether you were placed under lawful arrest, and
- Whether you had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more when driving your car (.04% for commercial drivers)
If you refused to take a breath or blood chemical test to determine your BAC, the third factor won't be considered. Instead, a few additional factors will be examined:
- Whether you were told your driving privileges would be suspended for one year or revoked for two to three years when you refused the test, and
- Whether you refused to submit to or complete a chemical test after being asked
These factors and these factors alone will be reviewed at the hearing to determine what will happen to your license. Any additional factors relevant to your criminal case will not be considered.
Given the limited scope of these hearings, the administrative hearing officer's job is relatively easy. These hearings can be brief and even occur over the phone in some circumstances. For evidence, the hearing officer will be relying heavily on the arresting officer's sworn report and the results of the chemical test if you took one.
Similar to court hearings, you have a right to defend yourself. You can introduce relevant evidence and present an argument. The judge can't influence your criminal case but could potentially allow you to keep your license until you resolve your criminal case.
The DMV administrative hearing is optional. Many defendants decide to forgo their right to a hearing, but this is generally a mistake. Even if you don't think you will be successful, requesting a hearing can put a stay on your suspension, meaning your license suspension won't go into effect until you've had your hearing. Administrative hearing dockets are often backlogged, meaning the cases aren't heard immediately. You could have to wait several weeks until you can have your hearing, during which time you can keep driving.
Although an administrative hearing officer isn't a judge, he or she can make a decision that can significantly impact your life. In that respect, you should take the DMV hearing as seriously as you would your criminal court hearing. You should prepare well and formulate a compelling argument. But you have to request a hearing within 10 days of your arrest, which doesn't give you much time at all. If you are serious about keeping your license, make sure you request a hearing as soon as you can.
DMV hearings are brief and limited in scope, but you should still go prepared. Speak with an attorney if you've been arrested for a DUI and need guidance on what to do to save your license. Make sure you discuss the details of your case with an experienced California DUI defense attorney who has handled DMV hearings before. An attorney who knows the ins and outs of DMV proceedings will know how to leverage any strengths in your case and challenge the evidence against you.
If you are in the Visalia, Hanford or Tulare area and are facing DUI charges, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens is here to help you. California DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you prevail at your administrative hearing. Attorney Martens has handled thousands of cases over a span of ten years of criminal defense practice and can fight hard for your rights. Contact attorney Christopher Martens for experienced criminal defense counsel today. Contact our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.