The DUI Defense Attorney is a criminal defense firm with clientele in and around the Van Nuys, California area. Our attorneys are highly experienced in DUI laws and can assist you to possibly win at a DMV hearing if your driver’s license is revoked or suspended after a DUI conviction.
California’s DUI Laws
A DMV hearing usually results from a driving under the influence arrest. It is, therefore, necessary to define what constitutes an offense under California DUI Laws. Under Vehicle Code 23152, it is illegal for you to operate a vehicle with a BAC of at least .08%. This limit is lower at .04% for drivers of hired passenger or commercial vehicles. If the driver is on probation or under 21 years, the maximum blood alcohol concentration allowed is .01 percent. Also, it is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. These laws apply to all drugs including illegal drugs, OTC (over the counter) drugs, drugs that contain alcohol, and prescription medications.
If you are arrested for DUI, the law enforcement officer will confiscate your driver’s license as required by the Admin Per Se law. The officer will hand the license over to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which is the only department authorized to suspend a driver's license. A suspension of your driver's license is a temporary withdrawal of your driving privileges. Once your license has been confiscated, you have ten days within which to request a DMV hearing for a chance to contest the suspension of your license.
Understanding DMV Hearings
A DMV hearing is a hearing held at a DMV driver safety branch office after you have been arrested for DUI. It is an administrative process, and its singular purpose is to determine whether or not you should maintain your driving privileges. Upon arrest for DUI, the arresting law enforcement officer will impound your driver's license and issue you with a notice of suspension which also serves as a temporary 30-day license. This document is significant because it also notifies you of your right to formally request a DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest. At the hearing, you get an opportunity to challenge the temporary withdrawal of your driver's license.
To arrange for your DMV hearing, you have to contact the area DMV driver safety branch office, because it will be the venue for your DMV hearing. If the ten-days window period expires before you request a hearing, you lose the right to contest the license suspension, and your license will automatically be suspended after 30 days from the day of your arrest. If you request a DMV hearing, your driver’s license will not be suspended until your DMV hearing is concluded.
The Difference between DMV Hearings and Court Hearings
The DMV hearing is independent of a court trial. A court trial determines whether or not you violated the law. On the contrary, a DMV hearing focuses on the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest. It is only concerned with whether or not to suspend or revoke your driving privileges. The DMV hearing is an entirely administrative process, and its outcome is independent of court proceedings. DMV hearings are more informal and relaxed than court hearings with neither a judge nor a prosecutor present. They are often presided over by a hearing officer with no legal training. The DMV hearing sessions are recorded on tape and can be held over the phone or face to face, in a driver safety office. Finally, unlike a court hearing where you must appear, your attorney can appear on your behalf at DMV hearings.
Your Rights at a DMV Hearing
The Federal and State constitutions protect you from being deprived of your personal property without the appropriate judicial procedures. Since your driver's license is personal property, the DMV must notify you of its intention to withdraw your driving privileges. You are also entitled to an opportunity to be heard before that action is taken. You have a right to representation by a lawyer, but the department will not provide you with one if you cannot afford your own. You are entitled to an opportunity to review the evidence presented against you and challenge it, as well as cross-examine testimony provided by witnesses for the DMV. It is your right to submit evidence, invite witnesses and to testify on your own account.
After the hearing, you have a right to be notified of the decision in writing. Should the outcome be negative, you have the right to either petition the DMV to carry out an administrative re-evaluation or file an appeal at the California Superior Court.
The DMV Hearing Procedure
Upon arrest for DUI, the arresting officer will impound your driver's license and give you a notice of suspension which also serves as a temporary 30-day license. On the temporary license, it is indicated that you have a right to request a DMV hearing within ten days. Either you or your attorney can request the hearing by contacting your local driver safety branch offices in writing or by telephone. You will be required to give your full name, date of birth, driver's license number, and your current mailing address. The department will later notify you of the hearing date in writing.
If you do not request for a DMV hearing within ten days after your arrest, you lose the right to a hearing and your driver's license suspension will automatically take effect 30 days after your arrest.
If you need a language or sign interpreter for yourself or your witness, you must contact the area Driver Safety Branch Office in advance and request for an interpreter to be provided at your DMV hearing. In case you request for a hearing, but neither you nor your attorney attend the hearing, the DMV proceeds to withdraw your driving privilege.
At the hearing, all the parties present will sit in an office, and the hearing officer will record all the proceedings on tape. You must be informed about the legal grounds prompting your license suspension. These legal grounds are found in the Government code also known as the Administrative Procedures Act, the California Vehicle Code and in different judgments by the Appellate and Supreme Courts. The documents relating to the case, such as driving records and police reports, will be marked as evidence and the department will present the evidence and any witnesses they may have against you. Among the documents tabled will be a police report signed by the arresting officer and showing the time of arrest, the location, the objective signs that the officer observed and the chemical test results. This report can be admitted as evidence without the arresting officer having to testify.
The arresting officer's report forms the bulk of the evidence against you. You will have a chance to examine and dispute this evidence by presenting your own testimony, witnesses, and your own statement to convince the hearing officer to adjust or reverse the action. After this, each side gets an opportunity to make closing arguments. The full hearing may take between one to two hours contingent on the specific facts of your case. After the hearing, the hearing officer will make a ruling to either sustain (uphold), modify, or set aside (rescind) the DMV action. The results will be communicated in writing and mailed to you within a period of one to two weeks.
Issues Considered at a DMV Hearing
At the hearing, the DMV hearing officer must establish three main elements: First, whether the arresting officer had probable cause to presume that you were under the influence while driving; second, whether your arrest was lawful; third, whether you were driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Moreover, the hearing officer must determine whether your offense was ordinary DUI or driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher since the two are offenses under separate vehicle codes.
If the charge against you is refusing to yield to a chemical blood or breath test, the third element becomes irrelevant. The hearing officer must establish whether the arresting officer informed you that refusal of a chemical test would lead to a license suspension of one year or revocation of between two and three years. The hearing officer will also establish whether you consciously refused to provide a sample for a chemical test.
For the action to be sustained, the arresting officer must have predominant evidence to prove all the three elements. If this happens, the suspension is upheld, and you are notified of the date when the suspension will commence. If you prevail and convince the hearing officer that one of the elements cannot be proven, the hearing officer will set aside the action. You will continue enjoying your driving privileges provided that your license is not suspended later by the court for reasons related to the charges.
Common Legal Defenses at DMV Hearings
Under the California DUI laws, a traffic or police officer must have probable cause to arrest you for DUI. Your attorney could present a wide range of reasons why the arresting officer had no probable cause to arrest you. If you prove this element, the hearing officer must set aside the suspension of your driving privileges. In addition, the California DUI law sets out strict legal requirements for DUI sobriety checkpoints. If you are arrested at a driver’s license or DUI checkpoint that does not adhere to these requirements, your arrest would be unlawful.
Furthermore, California DUI law requires that arrests for DUI be made only if the vehicle is moving. At the hearing, the arresting officer must provide evidence that he/she observed you driving, or present a witness who did. Without such evidence, an arrest for DUI would be unlawful; therefore, the "no driving" defense can be used to set aside the suspension of your driver's license. An illegal arrest would override all other details of the case even if at the time of your arrest, you were driving under the influence or with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
Under the California code of regulations, Title 17 regulates administration, collection, storage, and analysis of breath and blood tests. It also requires a 15-minute observation period immediately preceding a breath test. This period ensures that you don’t do anything that may interfere with the test results. Failure by the arresting officer to conduct this observation may provide unreliable results. With unreliable results, your charge of DUI with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher cannot be sustained. This will lead to an automatic win at the hearing.
The breath testing devices must be well calibrated and in good working condition. Title 17 stipulates that the tools must be subjected to an accuracy test every ten days or after 150 blows. If your breath test was administered using instruments that did not meet accuracy standards or were malfunctioning, then the BAC measurements could be inaccurate. Inaccurate BAC results cannot be used to sustain a license suspension by the DMV.
Under California's zero tolerance law, drivers under 21 years are prohibited from driving with any detectable alcohol in their system. Therefore, law enforcement officers mostly conduct preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) tests on these drivers. However, PAS devices are not controlled by Title 17. It is the responsibility of the arresting officer to set up mechanisms to prove the reliability of the PAS device in providing evidence during the hearing of your under 21 DUI case. Often, the officer will not know how to show the reliability of these instruments.
You could also argue that your BAC of 0.08% or higher was false as a result of physiological factors and not alcohol consumption. Medical conditions such as heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD can falsely increase your BAC level. Residual mouth alcohol and low carbohydrate, as well as high protein diets, can also cause erroneously high BAC results. If any of these was responsible for your BAC result of 0.08% or greater, then you were not violating the California DUI laws.
If you are arrested for refusing to submit to a DUI chemical test, the arresting officer must properly inform you of the repercussions of refusing to submit to the test. The officer must forewarn you that the refusal will result in an automatic one-year suspension of your driver's license. The officer is required by law to read the admonition verbatim. If the officer forgets or intentionally decides not to read the warning, delivers his/ her explanation, or misinforms you that a refusal could lead to a “mandatory” suspension, the DMV hearing officer could set aside the suspension of your driver’s license.
Furthermore, you cannot be accused of refusing to submit to a chemical test if the officer had no probable cause for a DUI stop or arrest, if your breath samples were insufficient, if a blood test was not offered as an alternative, or if you were inquiring about the procedure and the officer misinterpreted your questions as refusal. Additionally, you cannot be charged with a refusal to submit to the test if you were incapable of consenting or refusing to submit to a DUI test as a result of a medical condition or serious injury. However, if the incapacity is related to voluntary consumption of drugs or alcohol, you will be charged with refusal. If there are neither a refusal nor BAC results, the DMV hearing officer has no basis to sustain a suspension of your license.
You also have a chance to win at your DMV hearing if there were any costly errors with the paperwork. After your arrest, the arresting officer must fill out the requisite paperwork. This includes signing the paperwork, filling in the correct dates, and recording the BAC results. If the officer makes mistakes in any of these details and cannot independently remember the facts to correct these errors, the outcome of your DMV hearing may be in your favor.
Appealing After a DMV Hearing Loss
At your DMV hearing, you will either win or lose your case. If you win, you will retain your driving privileges. If you lose, suspension or revocation of your driver’s license will take effect. The period of suspension or revocation will be determined by whether you have any prior offenses. However, after a loss, you have the right to appeal either by asking the DMV to carry out a departmental review or by appealing directly to the California Superior Court. If you choose a review by the court, you must file a writ of mandate. If you do not get satisfactory rulings after these procedures, you can file an appeal at the California Court of Appeals. All these three appeal procedures operate under a strict set of rules with specific timeframes, determined by the kind of hearing and as detailed in the Vehicle Code. You will get specific information about your right to appeal on the written document informing you of the DMV decision.
DUI Lawyer Near Me
The proceedings at your DMV hearing will determine whether you retain your license or not. If you are in Van Nuys or the neighboring cities, contact The DUI Defense Attorney at 818-253-1913 to represent you during the hearing and challenge the outcome of the DMV Hearing.