What To Expect At A DMV Hearing Following A DUI Arrest In California

Law Blog

If you've been arrested for a DUI in California, you'll not only face criminal proceedings, but you'll also have to deal with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. With the former, you're looking at potential fines and jail time. But with the latter, your license could be revoked or suspended. Because the DMV hearing takes place before a trial, it can set the course for how your case turns out. So how you handle yourself is critical. Here's what you need to know before your DUI hearing and what you can expect.

How Do You Get a DMV Hearing?

When you're arrested for a DUI, the officer takes your license and issues a "Notice of Suspension." This piece of paper acts as a temporary license, good for 30 days, and you can continue to drive with it as long as you have a California license that was in good standing prior to your arrest (not revoked or expired).

The Notice of Suspension will indicate that you have 10 days from the date of the arrest to request a hearing. If you neglect to request a hearing, the state will automatically suspend your license once the Notice of Suspension has expired. How long your license is suspended will depend on a number of factors, such as injuries to other people and whether this is your first offense.  

What Happens at the Hearing?

DMV hearings are important because they can keep you from losing your license. They are more informal and relaxed than a criminal proceeding because a hearing officer, instead of a judge, will hear your case, either in an office or over the phone. They will present the evidence from the arresting officer, and you'll have a chance to challenge that evidence, bring in witnesses, and testify on your behalf.

At the end of the hearing, the officer will decide to either suspend your license or reverse the suspension of your license.

Can You Bring Your Attorney to the Hearing?

If you hire a DUI attorney to represent your case, you can bring them to the hearing, and it's strongly advised that you do so.

Your attorney can speak on your behalf and challenge the evidence. For instance, your lawyer may be able to prove your arrest was unlawful to begin with by arguing the following:

  • The officer didn't have probable cause to stop you.
  • You were not read your Miranda rights.
  • The breathalyzer was not maintained or calibrated.
  • The blood test results were in error due to improper handling or storage.
  • The field sobriety test results were inaccurate due to bad weather, poor lighting, an uneven pavement, uncomfortable shoes, or a feeling of intimidation. 
  • Your blood alcohol level had a chance to rise from the time you were driving until the time your blood was drawn.

There are many other defenses an attorney can use to have your suspension reversed. Be advised that unlike with a criminal proceeding, where a court-appointed attorney is provided for those that cannot afford one, a DMV hearing attorney must be hired by you.  

What Happens After the Hearing?

A lot of people want to know if they'll still face criminal charges if the DMV hearing dismisses their case, and the answer is it depends. You see, a DMV hearing is only concerned with whether your license should be suspended. It has nothing to do with determining guilt or innocence regarding criminal behavior.

However, if the officer at your DMV hearing sets aside the action of your license suspension, which is essentially a not-guilty verdict, this evidence will be sent to the prosecutor in your case, and they may decide to drop the criminal charges altogether, releasing you from any fines and possible jail time.

In another example, suppose the DMV hearing officer upholds the evidence of the arresting officer and suspends your license. The next step is facing a criminal trial. If your case is dismissed or you're found not guilty, you will automatically get your license back, reversing the hearing officer's decision. 


11 September 2017