After a DUI arrest, most people are rightfully concerned about losing their license. Police officers will confiscate your license when arresting you for a DUI, which sets in the realization that, in just a few weeks, you'll no longer be able to drive. But before you give up hope and start planning your Uber commute, take these steps first.
Request an Administrative Hearing
Many people don't realize a California DUI arrest sets two processes in motion: a criminal court process and a DMV administrative process. If you don't act fast, the administrative process will carry on without you, and the DMV will suspend your license 30 days after your arrest. To halt this process, you must request an administrative per se hearing through the DMV. This will accomplish two things.
First, it will place a stay on your suspension, meaning you can keep driving (legally) until you've had your hearing, which could be scheduled for several weeks out.
Second, it gives you a chance to fight your license suspension. You have a right to a DMV administrative hearing, but, unlike criminal hearings, if you fail to exercise that right, the DMV can take action against you anyway. It does not need to hear from you to suspend your license. All it needs is the arresting officer's report and evidence that you were driving while intoxicated. In fact, the DMV program that handles DUI license suspensions is called the Administrative Per Se (or Admin Per Se) program. Per Se is Latin for “by itself,” meaning the process is automatic and can continue with or without you. This program was implemented in 1990 as a deterrent to drunk driving. Unfortunately, many people still aren't aware of the program and what it means, which tempers the deterrent effect.
Why Fight for Your License?
Saving your driver's license after a DUI arrest is more important than you'd think. Even if you believe you are guilty, that does not mean the prosecuting attorney on your case will be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. But if you fail to request a DMV hearing, the DMV can suspend your license anyway, regardless of the outcome of your criminal case. It can even be difficult to get your license reinstated after that point. Essentially, you should fight both the DMV and the criminal court separately. The outcome of one doesn't necessarily affect the outcome of the other. You should know, however, that your DMV suspension and the court-ordered suspension may run concurrently. This means if both the DMV and the court suspend your license for a DUI, your suspensions can overlap.
Now that you know what the DMV Admin Per Se program is and why it's important to request a hearing, we can go over specifically how to do that. The most important thing to know is that you only have ten days in which to request your hearing. Past that point, the DMV will suspend your license according to the Per Se law. These hearings can be held over the phone (so not a big time commitment) or in person if you prefer it. The DMV will place a stay on your suspension if you request the hearing and the hearing cannot be scheduled before your suspension would go into effect, which is 30 days from the day your notice of suspension was issued. Generally, you will receive such a notice when the arresting officer confiscates your license. Again, it is not uncommon for the DMV to schedule hearings for several weeks out.
Once you request a hearing, you should obtain the evidence the DMV has. Again, this is usually the police report and your BAC test results. An attorney can request this evidence for you, which might be quicker. Then, you can review the evidence with an attorney to develop a strategy to fight your charges, which usually involves challenging one or more of the DMV's findings.
Take these first steps immediately after your DUI arrest, and call a California DUI defense attorney right away. Involving an attorney early on in your case can ensure you receive all the evidence you need to plan a strong defense.
Facing DUI charges and a license suspension is stressful, but attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team can help. Experienced in DUI and driver's license defense, our Visalia area legal team can advocate on your behalf in court and aggressively fight your charges. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense working in Tulare, Fresno, and Kings County and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.