When you face an arrest for drunk driving in Pasadena, CA, your driving privilege is threatened by a license suspension or revocation. It means that you could lose your driving privilege temporarily or permanently, depending on the outcome of a DMV hearing. A DMV administrative hearing is different from a criminal court proceeding that you must go through to determine if you are guilty as charged. The state’s DMV is mainly concerned with your driver’s privilege.

Proper legal representation is necessary throughout this process. At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we could help you win in the hearing to protect your driving license. Our team of competent defense attorneys has the necessary skills and experience to deliver a favorable outcome to your situation.

DMV Administrative Hearing — Overview

California DMV is responsible for issuing licenses to qualified drivers in the state, after the driver has acquired the necessary skills and performed exemplary in all the required tests. The DMV has the right to take away a driver’s privilege of operating a vehicle within the state if the driver fails to adhere to all the set laws. For instance, if the police arrest you for drunk driving, you will likely lose your driving privileges temporarily or permanently, depending on the circumstances of your case. The DMV revokes or suspends your license automatically unless you request a DMV hearing.

When you face arrest for drunk driving in California, you will likely face two legal proceedings separately: criminal charges for drunk driving in a criminal court and an administrative hearing with the state DMV. The two legal proceedings will determine the DUI’s impact on your driving privilege. DUI is a severe offense in California, and its most probable result is suspension or revocation of your driving license.

The result of a criminal court proceeding is a criminal sentence that could include jail time, court fines, and DUI school, among other penalties set by the judge depending on the circumstances of your case. In this case, the process you undergo is identical to court processes for other criminal charges in the state. However, the DMV administrative hearing is quite different and only deals with driving rights. The DMV won’t jail you, place you on probation, or even fine you after failing in the hearing. It can only suspend or revoke your license.

A DMV administrative hearing is held at the DMV office and not in a criminal court. Its goal is to establish whether your actions were severe enough to warrant a suspension or revocation of your license. After a DUI arrest in California, the police officer will first confiscate your license and issue you with an interim license that you can only use for thirty days. The provisional license is also a notice that your license is suspended. It is also an indication that you’re qualified for a DMV hearing to protect your license against suspension or revocation. 

However, you have to request a hearing within ten days of your DUI arrest. Failing to make that request within ten days will cause the DMV to automatically suspend your license within 30 days for a period determined by the circumstances of your situation. Note that the outcome of your DUI criminal case will not affect this decision. After the suspension, you may be able to restore your driving privilege through the following:

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

Remember that you lose your right to ask for a DMV administrative hearing ten days after your arrest. If the DMV suspends your license, you may not reinstate your driving privileges until the conclusion of your criminal court. But you could reinstate your driving privileges pending the determination of your criminal case by winning the DMV hearing. 

Your Legal Rights During a DMV Administrative Hearing

DMV administrative hearings are more flexible than California criminal court trials. You initiate the hearing by requesting it soon after your arrest. The hearing will happen in an office and not in a courtroom. In some cases, it could even happen over the phone. You do not have to appear before a DMV office in person. If you are unavailable, your criminal attorney can appear on your behalf, or both of you can conduct the hearing on the phone. That will not affect the outcome of your situation.

You do not appear before a judge like a criminal court proceeding but before a hearing officer. The officer does not have any formal or legal training to preside over a DUI case like a judge. Therefore, the hearing will not be as intimidating as a criminal trial.

The outcome of a DMV administrative hearing is evidence-based. Evidence is more acceptable in a DMV hearing than in criminal trials. The burden of proof in DMV hearings is the amount and nature of the evidence you present. Therefore, you have a higher chance of winning in a DMV hearing.

Even though DMV hearings are pretty relaxed, it helps to know that you have some rights that you and your attorney must protect throughout the hearing. They include:

A Right to Legal Representation

California law gives everyone a right to legal representation in any legal proceeding. Therefore, you will maintain the right to have an attorney during a DMV hearing. However, it is not necessary to have legal representation in hearings like these. Thus, the DMV won’t provide you with an attorney if you cannot afford one. If you wish to have legal representation, you must hire one at your expense. 

Other Rights During The Hearing

Your other rights during the DMV hearing include the following:

  • A right to examine and challenge all evidence brought against you in the hearing, including police reports
  • A right to present and subpoena witnesses to the hearing, including officers and anyone else that was present during your arrest
  • A right to question witnesses
  • A right to testify in your favor

Contact the local DMV office if you wish to schedule a DMV hearing. That will be where the hearing will take place. Remember that this has to be done within ten days after your arrest. After that, you will forfeit your right to a DMV hearing. If you already have an attorney, he/she can request on your behalf. Your attorney can also attend the hearing on your behalf if you need to testify. 

Winning Strategies in a DMV Hearing

Note that winning in a DMV administrative hearing is essential, as it helps protect your driving privileges. In that case, you need to be well prepared to defend your license. An experienced criminal lawyer could help with that. Fortunately, he/she is allowed by law to use different legal strategies to help you win. Some of the winning strategies that could help your situation include:

No Probable Cause for Arrest

The law requires police officers to have a probable reason for arresting a motorist, especially on suspicion of DUI. It would be wrong for an officer to stop a motorist and arrest them for DUI randomly. The officer must provide probable cause for the arrest. It could be you were operating a vehicle recklessly, and the police officer got concerned, or you committed a traffic infraction, causing the officer to stop and investigate you. Without probable cause for arrest, any charges against you will not hold, even in a criminal court. 

You could win in a DMV administrative hearing if the police officer didn’t have a probable reason for your arrest. Your attorney can provide several reasons to support that claim. For instance, you followed all traffic rules while on the road. Your attorney could also cite racial profiling as your reason for the arrest. Racial profiling is rampant, especially in situations where a particular race is associated with crime. If that is the case, the officer presiding over the hearing will dismiss all administrative charges against you and cancel your license suspension or revocation.

You Were Not Advised About The Likely Consequences of Failing to Submit to a DUI Test

If you face a DUI arrest in California and are taken to the police station, you must submit to DUI testing to determine your BAC. Failing to submit to a blood or breath test after an arrest is a severe offense resulting in a license suspension or revocation.

If you refuse to submit to DUI testing after arrest, the law requires the police officer to advise you about the consequences of your actions. The officer must inform you of the possibility of automatically losing your driving license to suspension if you do not submit to the test. If not, you can use that as a defense to have the DMV officer drop all your administrative charges. 

The warning is usually written, and the police officer must read it to you simply and clearly. 

The truth is that officers who make DUI arrests often forget about arrest guidelines provided under the law, including advising DUI arrestees about the possible consequences of failing to submit to DUI testing. Some deliberately choose not to do so, and others recite their personal understanding of the consequences instead of reciting what is written. 

Any of these cases could cause the DMV to dismiss any charges against the arrestee and set aside the license suspension or revocation.

Proving that You Had a Normal BAC

Drunk driving is a significant problem across the country and throughout the world. It is an issue that most states, including California, have been trying to curb to prevent accidents and deaths on our roads. California has strict DUI laws by which every motorist must abide. BAC is one way the police measure motorists’ level of intoxication. California law makes it illegal for any driver to operate a vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more. That would make you face criminal and administrative penalties. 

In a DMV hearing, proof that your BAC was indeed normal, or below .08%, is one way through which you could win. California DMV won’t suspend or revoke your driving license if there is no proof that you were driving while intoxicated. If your BAC was normal, it means that you were safely driving and not dangerously driving. However, you must have submitted to DUI testing after arrest. If not, you might not win in the hearing.

Proving that You Were Not The Driver

Only motorists are prohibited from driving while intoxicated in California. Passengers are not bound by any law on the amount of alcohol they can take before boarding a vehicle. Thus, if you were a mere passenger in a car that a sober driver drove, your license would be safe.

Sometimes the police make mistakes while arresting motorists on suspicion for drunk driving. The wrong person might be arrested instead. The police officer must prove that the defendant was the driver at the time of arrest and driving while intoxicated. It would be a different matter if you were arrested for DUI and were, in fact, not the driver at the time of the arrest.

If you or your defense attorney can prove to the DMV officer that you were not the driver at the time of arrest, you might win in the hearing. It could be that you got behind the wheel while drunk but did not drive the vehicle, or you quickly stepped out of the car and not the driver when the officer pulled you over.

Proof that You Cooperated During Arrest

Cooperating during an arrest is a good sign and could help you protect your license. You could win in a DMV administrative hearing if you prove to the officer that you complied with everything the officer asked of you. It could be that you submitted to DUI testing when the officer asked you to, or you blew into the breathalyzer. You could also prove that you answered all the questions the officer asked. 

However, this defense will help your situation if the test results do not show that you were indeed driving under the influence. 

What Happens When I Win in a DMV Administrative Hearing?

As previously mentioned, the outcome of a DMV administrative hearing is crucial in determining the status of your driving privilege in California. The decision of the DMV officer presiding over the hearing is based on the evidence presented by you, your attorney, and the police officer. The only time you could lose in the case is if the officer finds sufficient proof that you were moving at a higher-than-standard BAC or when intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. The DMV will likely suspend or revoke your license if you violate DUI laws.

Note that a criminal court trial outcome does not affect a DMV hearing. You could lose in a criminal trial and still win in a DMV hearing, or vice versa. But if your main goal is to protect your driving privilege, you must prepare well for the DMV administrative hearing. 

If you win a DMV hearing, you retain your driving rights in California. It means that the DMV will reinstate your revoked or suspended license. It could also mean that you might find favor with the prosecutor to help your criminal matter. If, for instance, your DMV hearing revealed severe police misconduct, you could use that to convince the district attorney to drop your criminal charges. 

However, note that criminal court proceedings and DMV hearings are entirely independent. That means that it will not be easy to bring some evidence from a DMV hearing to the criminal court. But an experienced criminal attorney can find a way to ensure that some of the issues are discussed with the prosecutor to obtain a plea bargain in your favor. 

If that does not work and the criminal court finds you guilty of DUI, the judge has total discretion to suspend or revoke your driver’s permit. The judge’s decision might overrule the DMV’s decision. That is why you need to partner with an experienced criminal attorney to ensure you win in both cases. 

And What If I Lose?

There is usually no guarantee of winning a DMV hearing, even with solid evidence. That is why you must be prepared for any eventuality when you face a DMV administrative hearing. Even after losing in a DMV hearing, your criminal attorney might obtain some information that could help your criminal case. When the prosecutor agrees to a plea bargain, or you win in the criminal court, the DMV might dismiss its decision to suspend or revoke your license. 

But losing in a DMV hearing will automatically cause your license suspension or revocation. The length of the suspension or revocation will be based on the details of your DUI case. 

Losing DMV Hearing for First DUI 

If that were your first arrest for DUI, DMV would suspend your license for between six and ten months. The suspension will take effect immediately after losing in the DMV hearing. After one month of suspension, you could have DMV convert the suspension to restriction. A limited license will allow you to operate a vehicle but only to specific areas like school, work, or DUI school.

Note that you do not automatically qualify for a restricted driver’s license. DMV will only agree to restrict your license and lift the suspension if:

  • You agree and enroll in a DUI school
  • You submit SR-22 forms
  • Pay a license reinstatement fee of $125

If you were operating a vehicle under the influence and caused an accident where another person incurred injuries, you could lose your driving license to suspension for one year if you lose in the DMV hearing.

If you failed to submit to DUI testing, you could lose your driving privilege for a year. 

If you are arrested for your first DUI with an injury or failed to submit to DUI testing, you could not qualify for California’s restricted driver’s license. The same applies to drivers with a blood-alcohol content of .01% or more who are already on DUI-related probation.

But if it is your first DUI arrest and you qualify for a restricted driver’s license, you may be allowed to operate a vehicle with no restriction if you install an IID system in your car. The installation should be for a minimum of four months. 

Losing DMV Hearing for Second DUI 

If you face arrest for the second time within ten years, you will likely lose your driving privileges for two years if you lose in the DMV hearing. However, you’ll be eligible for a restricted driver’s license after one year of not driving at all. You could apply for a limited license after 90 days following a DMV license suspension on the following conditions:

  • Your DUI case was only about alcohol and not drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol.
  • Your case has no aggravating factors, like a higher BAC than expected or an accident.
  • You have proof of enrolling in a DUI school for 18 or 30 months
  • You have evidence of installing an IID system in your vehicle

If you caused an accident in which another person incurs injuries through drunk driving, you could lose your license for three years. But you will be eligible for a limited license after one year. 

If you failed to submit to DUI testing after attest, your license suspension would be two years.

Note that second DUI offenders can drive without restriction in California if they agree to install an IId system in their vehicle for a minimum of one year.

Find a Competent Pasadena Criminal Lawyer Near Me

If you face a DUI administrative hearing after a DUI arrest, it helps to know what to expect to be well prepared. An experienced criminal lawyer will better guide you through the process, advise you, and even plan a solid defense against any administrative charges you face. Call Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm at 626-628-0564 if you face a DUI arrest in Pasadena. We have skills and experience in handling successful DMV hearings and could help you attain a favorable situation outcome.