When you are found guilty of driving under the influence (DUI) in some states, your driver’s license is automatically suspended. However, in California, when you are charged with DUI, your arrest will result in two separate proceedings. One proceeding will determine if you are guilty under California law while the other proceeding will determine if your driving privileges are revoked. Separate bodies handle both, and different rules and regulations govern both.
Charges In Criminal Court Vs. A DMV Hearing
Driving under the influence is a criminal offense in California and subject to the criminal laws governing this crime. The first hearing is a legal proceeding that the courts handle. The hearing in criminal court is to determine if you are guilty of DUI, and, if so, what the penalty should be for this offense. DUI penalties in California include one or more of the following: fines, jail, probation, and completion of a prevention course. Because you could be facing jail time for your offense, having an experienced DUI attorney is vital for anyone who has the ability to do so.
In addition to criminal court, you will also have a proceeding conducted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This is an administrative proceeding that deals only with your privilege to operate a motor vehicle. Because this may result in the suspension of your privilege to operate a motor vehicle, you should also retain an experienced attorney to represent you during this process if you want to put yourself in the best position to be successful.
How Long Do I Have To Request A DMV Hearing?
When you are arrested in California on a drunk driving charge, the arresting officer will immediately take your driver’s license. You are issued a Notice of Suspension that acts as a 30-day temporary driver’s license. The notice also provides you with very important information about the process. You have 10 days from the date of the arrest to request a Driver Safety Administrative Per Se Hearing. If you fail to request this within 10 days, you forfeit the right, and your driver’s license will be suspended.
If your driver’s license is suspended and you become eligible to reinstate your license at some future date, you will be required to take additional steps to reinstate your license due to your failure to request a hearing. These steps may include:
- Paying a $125 reinstatement fee;
- Submitting an SR-22 insurance form;
- Enrolling in a California DUI school; and,
- Installing an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle.
For a chance to avoid these steps, you must submit your request within 10 days of the date of your arrest.
Can I Bring My Attorney?
Yes, you can bring an attorney to your proceeding, and there are several reasons why it is great to have one present. Because your ability to drive is at stake, you want someone who has experience handling these types of proceedings and who understands the rules and regulations governing them. For example, a DMV hearing is an administrative process that is heard by a DMV officer rather than a judge. Even though they are not in a courtroom (sometimes they are conducted by telephone), they are very serious and result in serious consequences.
The proof of burden is much less than the burden of proof that the state is required to meet in criminal court. Regardless, you do have certain rights including the right to review and challenge evidence presented against you, testify on your own behalf, and question and subpoena witnesses, including the arresting officer. An experienced attorney will know the best defense to present at your proceeding, and, if you lose, the attorney can prepare an appeal of the DMV decision.
How Do I Prepare?
The best way to prepare is to contact an experienced criminal attorney. The hearing officer is considering three key issues to decide if he will sustain the suspension of your driving privileges or if he will set aside the action meaning that you will not lose your ability to drive. Those issues are:
- Did the officer have the required probable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence;
- Was it a lawful arrest; and,
- Was your blood alcohol concentration at least 0.08% or above?
If you failed to submit to a breathalyzer test or a chemical blood test, the question becomes did the officer inform you that your refusal to submit to the test would result in suspension or revocation of your driving privileges, and did you in fact refuse the test or tests.
The defense that you will present will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest. Your attorney should prepare you and will explain what, if anything, you need to do prior. The attorney can use several defenses including:
- The officer did not have probable cause to pull you over. If you were obeying all traffic laws at the time you were stopped, the attorney may be able to prove that the officer did not have probable cause for the driving while intoxicated stop.
- Failure to observe the driver for the full 15-minute observation period. An officer is required to observe you for a full 15 minutes prior to administering a breathalyzer test. If he failed to do so, you may be able to win.
- You were arrested at an illegal license checkpoint. If you are charged with driving under the influence at a sobriety checkpoint but the checkpoint failed to conform to the legal requirements governing checkpoints, you may be able to win due to an unlawful arrest.
Even though a DMV hearing is not a legal proceeding, you may still employ numerous legal arguments to win. Hiring a DUI attorney who has experience handling drunk driving proceedings and who knows the DUI laws in California is your best chance of winning your DMV hearing. Attorneys well-versed in DUI defense techniques can use the facts and circumstances of your arrest to help you keep your driver’s license and avoid losing your ability to drive.
Need help winning? Call (844) 241-1221 to obtain a free consultation from one of our DUI lawyers. The Law Offices of Randy Collins can help. Call today to get help now.