In California, the DMV can suspend your drivers license for many DUI-related situations, even if you are not actually convicted. You can fight this license suspension by requesting a hearing from the DMV. The circumstances where you can lose your license include:
- You are detained/arrested on the suspicion that you were driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- You are detained/arrested and a breath test shows a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more
- You are arrested for DUI but refuse to take the breath test
- You are under 21 and have a BAC of .01% or more
- You are on DUI probation and have a BAC of .01% or more
- You are a commercial driver, in a commercial vehicle, with a BAC of .04% or more
California (and every state) has a law known as “implied consent.” This means that you agreed in advance to take a breath test (or blood/urine test) if ever arrested for DUI. This agreement is part of having driving privileges in the state of California, and it’s why your license can be suspended for refusal.
How soon will my license be suspended?
If you are convicted of DUI, your license suspension will go into effect after your sentencing. In most cases, however, the DMV takes action long before this.
The typical procedure is that, during your arrest, police will confiscate your drivers license and give you a sheet of paper that serves as a temporary license. They will inform you that your license is being referred to the DMV and that the DMV will suspend it unless you request a hearing. The procedure is slightly different for an out of state license, but the timelines are the same.
You now face two timelines with the DMV:
- 30 days until your license is suspended
- 10 days to request a hearing
If you do not request your hearing within the 10-day period, you will automatically lose your license after 30 days. This suspension will last 4 months for a first DUI, but much longer if you are under 21 or have previous DUIs on your record.
You can ask your lawyer to request the hearing for you, or you can follow the instructions on the paperwork from police to request it.
Is it worth it to request the DMV hearing?
Yes. The DMV hearing gives you several huge advantages:
- You may be able to win and keep your license while you fight your DUI.
- If the hearing is scheduled several months out, you can request that your license not be suspended until that time.
- The hearing acts as a “mini trial” where your lawyer can cross-examine the arresting officer and find holes in their testimony. This can help you win your case if you later go to trial.
Always request the DMV hearing.
What does the DMV look for in the hearing?
The DMV hearing is often called the admin per se (APS) hearing. It is a short meeting with a DMV officer, and it is an administrative proceeding, not part of the criminal court system. This means that the standard of evidence is low—the officer only has to see a “preponderance of the evidence” to decide your case. The officer acts as the “judge” and will hear your case before deciding whether to go ahead with the license suspension.
The DMV officer is looking for you to address specific issues, but the issues depend on whether your suspension involves the actual DUI charge, or refusing the test.
If your suspension is for DUI alone, the key issues are:
- Was the traffic stop legal, and did the officer have a valid reason for approaching you in the first place?
- Did the officer have probable cause to believe you drove under the influence, and to arrest you?
- If you were tested for alcohol, was your BAC .08% or more?
If your suspension involves refusing the blood, breath or urine test, key issues also include:
- Did the officer advise you, in compliance with the law, of the penalties of refusing to submit to the test?
- Did you in fact refuse the test, or fail to complete it?
What are the chances that I can win at my DMV hearing?
This is one of the most common questions. The answer truly does depend on the specifics of your case. What we can say with certainty is that many DUI suspects do win their DMV hearing and get their license suspension overturned. You should never decide your case is hopeless—many people end up winning the hearing even if there is strong evidence of their DUI.
Common strategies used to win the hearing include:
- Officer had no probable cause for a DUI arrest
- Officer should not have stopped you in the first place
- You were not driving the car
- Police violated procedures around testing you or didn’t inform you of the penalties for refusal
- Legal problems with the breath test or other test used in your case
If you truly want to win your hearing and keep your license, it’s in your best interest to have a lawyer represent you. Your lawyer should request an in-person hearing, not one done over the phone, and they will likely call the arresting officer as a witness. The rules of evidence are in effect in the hearing, and you want a legal professional who knows how to present evidence, argue your case, and cross-examine the officer.
Winning your DMV hearing does not directly help you beat your DUI charge, but it can make a difference. If you overcome the refusal charge or the DUI evidence in the hearing, the prosecutor may worry that they don’t have enough evidence to convict you in court. This is often when they will offer a much more generous deal.
You Could Keep Your License After Your DUI
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 896-2724 and get your free consultation today.