One of the common ways the California DMV interacts with motorists is through suspending or revoking driver's licenses. While losing your driving privilege may be frustrating, Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer can help you reinstate it. We have represented clients in the Orange County community during their administrative hearings at the DMV. Our lawyers will take you through the entire structure and purpose of a DMV hearing in this article.

Which Matters Call for a DMV Hearing in California?

One way you can have confidence in the justice system is by understanding the various proceedings you will attend once charged for a crime. While criminal proceedings are held in court, administrative proceedings related to driving privileges and violations are held at a DMV office. The goal of this type of hearing is to determine whether the DMV will impose a revocation or suspension on your driver's license. The various causes for a DMV hearing are as follows:

DUI Arrests

The Department of Motor Vehicles will immediately seek to suspend your driving privileges following your arrest for a crime of vehicular manslaughter, DUI of drugs or DUI. You may also lose the privilege to drive in your home state if you are an out-of-state driver arrested for a California DUI offense. Your best hope to having the suspension lifted is an APS (Administrative Per Se) hearing at the DMV.

Your license suspension may last for up to one year if the probable cause for the arrest was a refusal to take a chemical test or underage DUI. While you are entitled to an APS hearing following the arrest, this right may only be valid for 10 days. The 10-day period is the maximum time the DMV gives motorists to request a hearing once arrested for a crime of DUI.

Driver’s License Suspension for Drivers with a Physical or Mental Condition

You risk facing a revocation on your California driver's license if you are suffering from a mental or physical condition. The DMV can only impose the revocation after proving the condition affects your driving skills. Conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and epilepsy may impair your motor skills, reflexes, and alertness or result in loss of consciousness.

One of your legal rights as a motorist is to contest these allegations if you are capable of operating a vehicle safely. Expect a hearing known as a reexamination to be conducted by the DMV prior to them revoking or suspending your license. The hearing, which is also referred to as an inquiry for “lack of skill,” helps stop the revocation from taking effect.

Contesting a Suspension Caused by an Alleged Negligence

The term negligent operator may apply to you if you have amassed too many points on your driver's license. If this is the case, your driver's license will automatically be suspended. The California DMV imposes various points on people's driving records following a violation for a Vehicle Code. Traffic tickets, accidents, and DUI among other driving offenses may increase the points on your DMV record.

Drivers who qualify as negligent operators usually receive warning letters from the DMV notifying them of a license suspension. Consider contacting a lawyer quickly to have a negligent operator hearing secured for you. The DMV will decide whether to lift the suspension or not in this type of administrative hearing.

Driver’s License Fraud

A crime of driver’s license fraud can be committed through the use of another person’s identity or false identification when securing a driver’s license. This crime may attract criminal charges pursuant to Penal Code 470 (the forgery law). You may also be prosecuted for committing a crime of burglary under PC 459 if you broke in a DMV office intending to apply for the license fraudulently.

As the offender, you will permanently lose your California driving privileges following a criminal charge for driver's license fraud. Prior to the permanent license suspension, you will be entitled to a DMV hearing, which helps you restore your right to a driver's license. Your lawyer should be on your side at both court proceedings for the criminal charges and at the DMV for the administrative proceedings.

Renewing Licenses for Senior Citizens

Elderly people can keep their driving privileges for as long as they want since the DMV does not have a maximum age or cut off for drivers to keep their licenses. Drivers who are over 70 years old must renew their licenses at a nearby DMV office in person. These facts do not prevent the Department of Motor Vehicles from revoking a license once an elderly person loses his or her mental/physical abilities. The DMV considers physical and mental faculties as the crucial factors in determining a person’s ability to drive safely and adhere to traffic laws.

A DMV hearing is the best hope for senior citizens to have evidence presented demonstrating their ability to drive safely . Every motorist in California is entitled to this type of administrative hearing regardless of their age. A lawyer’s task in the proceeding is to prove the driver’s physical and mental faculties are still functional.

License Suspension for Lacking Car Insurance

The California DMV usually imposes 4-year suspensions on licenses belonging to drivers who were involved in a road accident but lack car insurance. A DUI conviction also increases the need for submitting an SR22 form (proving your car insurance) for about three years, Losing the coverage will result in a revocation of your driver’s license. Expect your car insurer to notify the California DMV once you lose your coverage.

License Suspension for Failing to Appear in a California Court

While failing to appear in a specified court is an offense in California, the offense increases the risk of getting a revocation on your driver's license. The same thing will happen if you fail to pay a court-imposed fine. Committing one of these offenses may result in the court issuing the law enforcement officers a bench warrant to have you arrested.

Through expert legal help, it is easier to remedy license suspensions or revocations for missing specified court dates or failing to pay court fines. A DMV hearing will be ordered for your legal counsel to help you remove any suspensions or revocations on your driver's license. Your counsel can also help clear any warrants for your arrest.

What Happens if You Fail to Request a DMV Hearing?

Part of a DUI arrest involves the arresting officer confiscating your license and providing you with a notice of suspension. The notice should serve as your temporary license for up to 30 days and confirm your entitlement to a DMV DUI hearing to prevent further suspension. While you only have 10 days for requesting the hearing, the suspension on your license will be imposed after 30 days of the notice. Once the 10-day window elapses, you can only have the license reinstated after meeting the following conditions:

  • Enrolling in a court-approved DUI school in California

  • Paying a reinstatement fee ($125)

  • Submitting an SR-22 form

  • Installing an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) in your vehicle

As of 2019, drivers arrested for a crime of DUI are now able to drive without any limitations provided they sign up for an IID-restricted license. One of the conditions for this license is having a breathalyzer installed in your car. You should have the device in your vehicle for up to four months if you are a first-time DUI offender and two years for a more severe DUI charge.

What Rights Do You Have at the DMV Hearing?

Administrative proceedings at the DMV offices are calmer than those conducted in courtrooms. Instead of having a judge presiding over your case, a DMV hearing officer (who does not have formal legal training) will take charge. Furthermore, it is easier to satisfy the amount of evidence needed to beat your case in a DMV hearing than it is in criminal proceedings. The administrative hearing may take place over the phone or in an office.

Despite the informality surrounding DMV hearings, you are entitled to various rights. One of them is the right to have an attorney represent you at your own expense. Unlike in a criminal proceeding taking place in a courtroom, you will not need the DMV to appoint a lawyer for you if you cannot afford one. Other rights at the hearing are as follows:

  • Right to not only review but challenge evidence

  • Cross-examining witnesses

  • Subpoenaing and presenting witnesses (which may include your arresting officer)

  • Testifying on your behalf

How Do You Request or Schedule a DMV Hearing?

The first step to scheduling a DMV hearing involves contacting a local driver safety branch office. Expect the office to differ from the usual DMV field office, which facilitates license issuance or vehicle registration. Consider reaching out to the office within ten calendar days following your arrest to avoid forfeiting your right to this proceeding.

How Can You Increase the Odds of a Fair Outcome at the DMV Hearing?

As much as the scope of a DMV hearing in California is wide, the hearing officer usually considers various issues. The odds for having a fair outcome depend on how your lawyer presents the case. The hearing officer will want to know the following things:

  • Did the arresting officer have a lawful cause for arresting you?

  • Did the officer have a probable cause for stopping your car?

  • Were you intoxicated at the time you were driving?

  • Does your record present you as a diligent driver as you claim?

  • Do you have any priors for violating a Vehicle Code?

  • Did the arresting officer inform you about a license suspension imposed on drivers who refuse to take a breath or blood test?

  • Did you willfully refuse to take the test once the officer asked you to do so?

After carefully evaluating these issues, the hearing officer may either suspend your license or reverse the suspension. If the hearing officer reverses the license suspension, this judgment is equivalent to a "not guilty" verdict given in a criminal court. Your skilled attorney can use various defense strategies on your behalf at the DMV hearing for fair outcomes. They are as follows:

The Arresting Officer’s Paperwork Had Fatal Flaws

Your arresting officer is required to fill out various paperwork and reports after making the arrest. Flaws may exist in the paperwork if the officer fails to report your BAC results accurately, forgets to include the correct dates or fails to sign the documents. Regardless of how minimal the errors may be, they are fatal to your case. They may also lead to favorable outcomes if your lawyer points them out.

You Did not Willfully Refuse to Take the Chemical Test

Arguing that you had difficulties (brought by a physical condition) blowing a breathalyzer may help your case. Your lawyer may also allude that the officer failed to offer you a blood test as an alternative for the breath test. It may also be possible for the officer to assume you have refused to take the test as you ask questions regarding the procedure.

The Officer Failed to Properly Inform You of the Consequences for Refusing to Take the Test

Upon your arrest, it is your right to be advised about the one-year license suspension imposed on drivers who refuse to take breath or blood tests. The arresting officer should inform you about this matter by reading a written admonition. Your attorney may suggest the officer deliberately chose not to advise you or forgot to give you this admonition. Your legal counsel can also suggest the officer misinterpreted the admonition.

You Have Explanations for the False High BAC Levels

Physiological factors such as low carbohydrate diets and high protein diets may result in false high BAC levels in your system. If one of these factors apply to you, chances are your BAC was not 0.08 percent or more at the time you were driving. The ability to prove these conditions can help get favorable outcomes from the hearing.

Your lawyer can link the false high results to the improper calibration of the breath testing instrument. Breathalyzers are supposed to be checked for accuracy after every 150 blows or ten days. If the device was malfunctioning, there is a likelihood for the high BAC results to be false.

The Arresting Officer Did not Have a Lawful or Probable Cause for the Arrest

Racial profiling is one of the leading instances of police misconduct in the State of California. Your arresting officer may have stopped your car by judging your ethnicity, nationality or race. The legal probable causes for a traffic stop include speeding or violation of traffic laws. You may argue the arrest was invalid if there was no probable cause for you to be stopped.

Law enforcement officers are supposed to take at least 15 minutes observing a suspect before administering a breath test. They should use the 15-minute period to ensure the suspect does not engage in any compromising activity. Failure to conduct this observation may jeopardize the suspect’s BAC test results.

How is Your Criminal Court Case Related to Your DMV Hearing?

A criminal court proceeding focuses on whether or not you are guilty of committing a criminal offense, unlike a DMV hearing. In your administrative proceeding, the hearing officer will exclusively focus on the circumstances revolving around your case. The officer will also evaluate whether or not your driver's license should be suspended. Despite these differences, the testimony obtained through a DMV hearing can help negotiate a charge reduction for a DUI or driving offense charge.

Receiving a "not guilty" verdict for drunk driving will result in a California court ordering the DMV to have your driver's license reissued. On the other hand, a guilty plea, a no contest plea and a court dismissal will not affect your DMV license revocation or suspension. Criminal court proceedings are more comprehensive than DMV hearings. In this case, lawyers have more chances for exploring broader varieties of legal defenses to fight your criminal charge.

What Happens After Winning a DMV Hearing?

Winning a DMV hearing results in the hearing officer reversing your license suspension enabling you to retain your driving privileges. If you are facing a DUI charge, you stand a chance to get a better deal during the plea bargain negotiations with the prosecution team. Since criminal court proceedings are completely different from DMV ones, winning an administrative hearing at the DMV will not be reflected in a court proceeding. The prosecution team may inform the judge about their intention to have your case proceed to trial with the strong evidence they have against you.

Consequences of Losing a DMV Hearing

Losing an administrative hearing at the DMV will result in the revocation or suspension on your license taking effect. The circumstances and length of the revocation or suspension will depend on various factors. They are as follows:

Out of state Drivers

When charged with a driving offense such as DUI in California but you are an out-of-state driver, you will have to request a DMV hearing. You may ask your DUI defense lawyer to represent you at the hearing via the phone or in-person. Losing the DMV hearing will result in your privilege to drive within California suspended the same way it would be suspended if you were a resident. A license suspension in this state will affect your license back in your home state (if the state is part of the DLC).

The interstate DLC (Drivers License Compact) entitled every driver in the US a single license and driving record. States taking part in the DLC usually share information any driving arrests (such as DUI arrests) with each other. Your home state may be notified about your arrest and license suspension by the California DMV.

Underage DUI Offenders

Underage (below the age of 21) drivers are charged for violating vehicle Code 23136 when found driving with a BAC of 0.01 percent or higher. Losing a DMV hearing as an underage DUI offender may result in a one-year license suspension. If you have not qualified to obtain a driver's license, the DMV will postpone your privilege to get one for one year. Refusing to take a blood or breath test can result in an underage driver having a one to three-year license suspension depending on the number of prior traffic violations.

License Suspension for First, Second, Third, Fourth and Subsequent DUI Charges

You risk having a 6 to 10-month license suspension for a first-offense DUI after losing a DMV hearing. As a first-time DUI offender, the suspension will last for one year if you are being charged with DUI causing injury or you refused to take a chemical test. The DMV will impose a two-year suspension on your license if you lost the hearing following an arrest for second-offense DUI. The suspension will last two years if you refused to take a BAC test or three years if your second-offense DUI charge resulted in a person getting injured.

Losing the administrative hearing with a third-offense DUI charge may result in a three-year license suspension. As a third-offense DUI offender, the license suspension will last for five years if your DUI offense resulted in injury or three years if you refused to take a BAC test. If you are facing a fourth or subsequent DUI charge, your license suspension will last four years for losing a DMV hearing. First-offense, second-offense, third-offense, fourth offense and subsequent DUI charges usually have a 10-year period between them.

Can You Appeal a DMV Hearing Decision?

You may appeal the decision of a DMV hearing officer by asking the Department itself to thoroughly review the decision. Your lawyer can also file the appeal with a Superior Court in California. The time frame and other instructions for making the appeal will be included in a form presented to you following a DMV hearing. You will spend ranging from $2,500 to $3,500 for a court appeal and pay $120 to have the DMV review the decision.

Seek Legal Representation at a DMV Hearing from an Attorney Near Me

As a DUI defense law firm, Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer can represent you in both your court case and the DMV hearing. Our lawyers, have been serving clients with cases like yours in Orange County, for a long time. Not only can we defend you in criminal court but we can also attend the administrative proceeding on your behalf if you are not planning to testify. Contact our Orange County DUI lawyer today at 714-820-9592 to schedule a free expert consultation.