After an arrest for DUI in California, you will face two legal proceedings. The first one is the admin per se hearing, commonly referred to as the DMV hearing. The California Department of Motor Vehicles conducts the DMV hearing. During this hearing, the DMV will decide whether you should keep your driver's license or face a license suspension. You will also be subject to a legal proceeding at the California courts for your criminal DUI charges. A DMV hearing is an administrative hearing whose outcome will impact your driving privileges in California. Unlike a criminal court, the DMV will not impose fines or send you to jail but can suspend your driver's license. It is advisable to seek legal counsel while preparing for a DMV hearing. At the Bakersfield DUI Attorneys, we will help you prepare and represent you at the DMV hearing.

Impact of a DUI on Your License

License suspension is a burdensome penalty, especially for first-time DUI offenders. However, starting from 2019, you can continue driving normally even after committing a DUI offense as long as you are willing to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle. You will have the IID installed for a predetermined period depending on the seriousness of your DUI offense. When you agree to install an IID, the DMV issues you with an IID restricted license. An IID functions in the same way as a breathalyzer and prevents your vehicle from starting if the device detects alcohol in your breath. For a first-time DUI offense, you have to retain the IID in your vehicle for a minimum of four months. For subsequent or more severe DUI offenses, the DMV may require you to retain the IID for up to two years.

What a DMV Hearing Entails

A DMV hearing takes place at the DMV office. This hearing's sole purpose is to determine whether the DMV should suspend your driver's license or allow you to continue driving normally after a DUI arrest.

Immediately after an arrest for DUI, the arresting officer confiscates your license. The officer will issue you with a Notice of Suspension, which will serve as your license for the next thirty days. The notice will also inform you that you are subject to a DMV hearing to get a chance to defend your driver's license. You have to request a DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest. If you fail to request the hearing, the DMV suspends your license automatically after thirty days.

When the DMV suspends your driver's license, you will later be eligible for license reinstatement after:

  • Enrolling in a DUI school in California
  • Submitting an SR-22 form
  • Paying a reinstatement fee of $125
  • Installing an IID in your vehicle

Most people are not aware that they should request a DMV hearing after a DUI arrest. This is where a DUI attorney comes in. An attorney will help you request the DMV hearing and represent you at the hearing. If you do not request the hearing within ten days of your arrest, you will lose your rights to the hearing.

If you request a DMV hearing, the Department of Motor Vehicles will delay your license suspension until the hearing's outcome. The DMV will not suspend your license if you win at the hearing.

What to Expect in a DMV Hearing

Unlike a court proceeding, DMV hearings are much more relaxed. Unlike court cases where a judge presides over the hearings, a DMV officer presides over DMV hearings. It is worth noting that the burden of proof or the evidence required to prove you guilty during a DMV hearing is easier to satisfy than during a court proceeding.

Unlike court proceedings that take place in the courtroom, DMV hearings take place at the DMV office. The DMV officer may even conduct the hearing on the phone. However, even if DMV hearings are informal, you still have certain rights during the hearings:

  • You have a right to have an attorney represent you in a DMV hearing. However, you have to meet all the expenses of hiring an attorney. If you have no capability of hiring an attorney, the DMV will not appoint an attorney for you like in the case of criminal court proceedings. If you cannot afford an attorney, you have to represent yourself at the DMV hearing.
  • During the DMV hearing, you have a legal right to access and challenge the evidence that the arresting officer brings against you. For instance, you have a legal right to review the police report regarding your DUI arrest and all the facts therein.
  • You also have a legal right to subpoena and bring witnesses during the legal proceedings. The witnesses include the arresting officer.
    • You have a right to cross-examine and question the witnesses.
    • A right to testify or present your statement

Scheduling a DMV Hearing

Which process do you have to follow when scheduling a DMV hearing? The first step entails contacting your local driver safety branch office. In most cases, the DMV hearing takes place at this office. This office is distinct from the DMV field officers, where drivers obtain their licenses or register their vehicles. You have to contact the DMV office within ten days of your DUI arrest to book the hearing.

You do not have to go through the process of booking a DMV hearing. Instead, you can have a DUI attorney schedule the hearing on your behalf. However, you must ensure that you hire an attorney within ten days of your arrest. Your attorney may also appear at the DMV hearing on your behalf. You do not have to attend the DMV hearing if you do not intend to testify.

Prevailing in a DMV Hearing

Before deciding during a DMV hearing, the DMV officer will consider several factors:

  • Whether the arresting officer had probable cause to believe that you were under the influence of alcohol
  • Whether the arresting officer had enough evidence to arrest you
  • Whether your blood alcohol concentration, commonly abbreviated as BAC, exceeded the allowable limit of 0.08%

According to California law VC 23152(a), it is an offense to drive under the influence. According to the California VC 23152(b), it is an offense to drive with a BAC that exceeds 0.08%.

You would have a lower chance of prevailing or winning the DMV hearing if you refused to submit to a DUI test at the time of your arrest. However, the DMV officer will consider whether the arresting officer informed you that failing to submit to a DUI test could lead to suspension or revocation of your driver's license.

The DMV officer will also consider whether you refused to submit to the DUI testing intentionally. The DMV officer must listen to all facts and consider all the available evidence before deciding. Depending on the evidence against you, the DMV officer will:

  • Sustain the action and suspend your driver's license
  • Set aside the action or reverse your driver's license suspension. Setting aside an action is equivalent to getting a not guilty verdict.

A DUI attorney plays a significant role and determines the outcome of your DMV hearing. For the DMV officer to set aside the action, you have to fight at least one of the pieces of evidence presented against you. Your DUI attorney will do everything in their power to help you create a convincing defense that could prevent the admission of incriminating evidence against you.

Impact of a DMV Hearing on Your DUI Court Case

Is there a relationship between a DMV hearing and your DUI court case? DUI court cases focus on the DUI offense and whether you committed a criminal act. However, a DMV hearing concentrates solely on whether you should retain your driver's license or not. However, a close relationship exists between a DMV hearing and the DUI court proceedings. Depending on the outcome of the DMV hearing, the prosecutor might decide whether to drop the charges against you or to offer a plea bargain to your DUI charges.

Compared to the DMV hearing, the DUI court process and trial is much more comprehensive. Your attorney will have a larger scope to explore the appropriate defenses during a DUI trial than during a DMV hearing. If the DMV suspends your driver's license and you receive a not guilty verdict after going to court, the DMV has to reinstate your license. However, if you enter a no-contest plea for a reduction of your DUI charges, this outcome may not have an impact on the DMV's decision regarding your driver's license.

Due to the differences between the DMV hearing and the DUI court process, it is important to have an attorney who understands both systems. The attorney should understand the proceedings or both the DMV hearing and the jury trial.

A Preponderance of Evidence in a DMV Hearing

In a criminal case, a prosecutor has a burden of proof to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed an offense. However, in a DMV hearing, only a preponderance of the evidence is necessary. The hearing officer only requires a preponderance of the evidence that you operated a motor vehicle under the influence and that you violated California's DUI laws. A burden of proof in criminal DUI cases is harder to prove than a preponderance of evidence in a DMV hearing. Therefore, you may lose a DMV hearing but later win at the DUI criminal trial.

Impacts of Winning or Losing a DMV Hearing

If you win at the DMV hearing, your driving privileges will remain intact. You will also have a better basis for negotiating for a plea bargain or reducing your charges with the prosecutor. However, since the DMV hearing proceedings are distinct from the DUI court proceedings, winning at a DMV hearing does not mean that you will win during a DUI court trial. Also, winning at the DMV hearing does not mean that the prosecutor will give up the court proceedings. The prosecutor will continue with the court proceedings as long as they believe that they have a strong case against you.

Losing during the DMV hearing will lead to the suspension of your driver's license. However, even if you lose, the hearing may elicit information that may make the prosecutor willing to offer you a plea bargain. If you lose at the DMV hearing and later win at the DUI court trial, the judge has the discretion to order reinstatement of your driver's license.

The Length of License Suspension

The length of a license suspension after losing in a DUI trial will depend on several factors, including whether you have committed a first or a subsequent DUI offense:

  • A first DUI offense may result in license suspension for six to ten months. After the first months, you may acquire a restricted driver's license after meeting specific
  • A second DUI within ten years from the first offense may result in license suspension for two years. You may be eligible for a restricted license after one year of the suspension.
  • If you commit a third DUI offense within ten years and do not prevail at the DMV hearing, the DMV may suspend your license for three years. After one year of adhering to all the requirements, you will be eligible for a restricted driver's license.
  • Committing a fourth DUI offense within ten years will lead to felony DUI charges. If you lose the DMV hearing, the DMV will suspend your driver's license for four years. After one year of adhering to all the set requirements, you will be eligible for a restricted license.

If you violate the California zero-tolerance laws and you are below 21 years, the DMV may suspend your license upon learning that you had even a slight alcohol content in your blood. The DMV will suspend your license for one year if you commit an underage DUI offense and lose at the DMV hearing.  If you do not have a license yet, the DMV will suspend your privilege to get a driver's license for one year.

Defenses that You Can Use During a DMV Hearing

With the help of your DUI attorney, you can come up with various defenses to fight the DUI accusations. Some of the applicable defenses during the DMV hearing are:

You Did Not Drive Under the Influence

You can use this defense as long as the DMV officer or other witnesses did not see you driving while under the influence, or if the prosecutor does not have ample evidence to show that you were driving while under the influence, this defense would come in handy. The DMV officer might set aside the suspension of your license.

You may have had a few drinks, and after going back to your vehicle, you decide not to drive while intoxicated, and you choose to sleep. An officer approaches your vehicle and arrests you upon smelling alcohol in your breath. In this case, you have a good basis for fighting the DUI charges. You can point out that even if you were under the influence, you were not driving. An officer has no legal right to arrest you for DUI if you were not driving.

Illegal Arrest

If the police arrest you at an illegal DUI checkpoint, you can fight the charges based on an illegal arrest. California has some strict laws that DUI checkpoints have to adhere to. If a DUI checkpoint does not comply with the requirements set out by the law, DUI arrests made at the checkpoint are illegal. Therefore, even if you were intoxicated at the time of the DUI arrest, the DMV officer may suspend your charges.

The Officer Did Not Follow the DUI Testing Guidelines

You can fight the DUI charges by pointing out that the testing officer did not follow the recommended guidelines while measuring your BAC. Title 17 of the California Codes of Regulations states some guidelines regarding administering breath and blood tests. A DUI arrest may be scrutinized if an officer does not follow the guidelines set forth under Title 17.

An officer should observe a driver for a minimum of fifteen minutes before administering a breath test. This way, the officer will be sure that the driver does not regurgitate, vomit, or do anything that might compromise the DUI test results. If a police officer fails to wait for this period, the DUI test results could be jeopardized.

With the help of your attorney, you can challenge the reliability or credibility of the DUI results. You can point out that your BAC results were not above 0.08%.

Improper Calibration of the Breath Testing Equipment

According to Title 17, breath testing equipment requires proper maintenance and calibration to ensure reliable results. After every 150 blows or after ten days, the breath testing equipment should undergo an accuracy check. If you suspect that the breath testing equipment was faulty, you can fight your charges based on this fact. You can state that the faulty testing equipment resulted in elevated BAC results. After establishing that the breath testing equipment was faulty, the DMV officer might reverse your license suspension.

No Probable Cause for the DUI Arrest

The DMV officer might set aside your license suspension if the police did not have probable cause for arresting you for DUI. California law requires the police to have a valid reason or probable cause for pulling over a driver. You could point out that you are a victim of social profiling if the police stopped vehicles with drivers of a certain race or age. An officer should not initiate a traffic stop based on a driver's nationality, race, or ethnicity.

Other Factors Caused the Elevated BAC Results

During the DMV hearing, you and your attorney can point out that the high BAC results were due to other factors and not intoxication. Certain physiological factors may lead to elevated BAC results:

  • Low carbohydrate or high-protein diet might lead to high BAC results
  • Medical conditions like acid reflux, GERD, and heartburn could lead to elevated BAC results.
  • Residual mouth alcohol could also lead to high BAC results. High mouth residue may be due to the use of products with high alcohol content, including mouthwash.

Even if you had a BAC of 0.08% or above at the time of your arrest, you could point out that the results were not due to intoxication. The DMV officer may suspend your license suspension based on this factor.

You Did Not Refuse to Submit to DUI Testing

Refusal to submit to a DUI chemical test often leads to suspension of your driver's license. If the arresting officer accuses you of refusing to submit to a DUI chemical test, you challenge their allegations with the help of an attorney. You can point out that you did not have ample breath to blow into the Breathalyzer equipment. You may also point out that the arresting officer did not offer you a blood draw as an alternative to breathe testing. You may also state that the testing officer misinterpreted your actions as hostility and accused you of refusing to submit to the DUI chemical test.

If BAC results do not exist, and you did not refuse to submit to a DUI test, the hearing officer may not have a valid reason to suspend your driver's license.

The Arresting Officer Did Not Give You the Necessary Admonition

With the help of your DUI attorney, you can inform the hearing officer that you were not aware of the consequences of refusing to submit to a DUI test. The law requires the arresting officer to inform you about your driver's license's automatic suspension for failing to submit to a DUI test. The officer should read the admonition, which is written form, in verbatim. Reading an admonition in verbatim means reading it word for word. If the officer fails to read out the charges, you may use it as a basis for your defense during the DMV hearing.

Law enforcement officers make numerous arrests and tend to take some factors for granted. In some instances, the officer might forget to read out the admonition to you. In other instances, the officer may ignore or choose not to read the admonition. The officer may also interpret the admonition instead of reading it out and end up confusing the driver. 

Find a Bakersfield DUI Attorney Near Me

If you or a loved one needs assistance with a DMV hearing, we invite you to contact us at Bakersfield DUI Attorneys. Our attorneys understand both the DMV hearings and DUI court trials. Contact us at 661-215-5660 and speak to one of our attorneys.