DUI and Administrative License Hearings
Your driver's license can be automatically suspended or revoked after a DUI arrest – unless you schedule an administrative license hearing with the DMV. The term "DMV hearing" or "administrative license hearing" refers to an administrative proceeding related to you're the revocation/suspension of your driver's license after a drunk driving arrest. Administrative license hearings are different from court proceedings; an administrative license hearing is only used to discuss your driver's license privileges after an arrest. You may schedule a DMV hearing to discuss your driver's license even if you are already scheduled to appear in court. Simply put, the administrative hearing provides the opportunity for you to re-obtain your driver's license after an arrest. If you do not schedule a hearing, the DMV will automatically suspend your license.
Why does the DMV offer administrative hearings?
State and federal laws disallow the government from depriving you of any personal property without due process of law. This includes you driver's license. After a DUI Arrest, police officers may take your driver's license, but you still have the right to schedule a hearing and explain why you should get it back. You are not obligated to schedule a DMV hearing.
DMV Hearings vs. Court Trials
You might think that DMV hearings and court trials are basically the same. Actually, your administrative hearing and your court trial serve very different purposes. A DMV hearing is an administrative process related to your driver's license. You will discuss your driving privilege and the unique circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest during the hearing. Unlike a court trial, the DMV hearing will not discuss your guilt or innocence. The hearing is only designed to determine whether or not your license should be suspended; it is not meant to determine whether or not you actually committed a crime.
What to expect: You will discuss the following issues at the hearing: 1) If you took a blood, breath, or urine test and 2), if/why you refused or failed to complete the test. During the hearing, the DMV will seek to answer questions like "were you arrested lawfully?" and "Did law enforcement have reasonable cause to believe that you violated the law?" Additionally, the hearing may seek to determine whether or not you operated a motor vehicle when your blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeded .08%. However, this determination will not contribute to your innocence or guilt during the actual court trial.
Your driver's license can be suspended if you refuse to take a blood, breath, or urine test. During the DMV hearing, the DMV will determine whether or not you refused to take the test. Additionally, the DMV will decide, if applicable, how long your license will be suspended. Under certain circumstances, the DMV can suspend your driver's license for one or three years. This amount of time will be determined during your hearing. Your administrative DMV hearing cannot, under any circumstances, replace a court trial; the trial and the hearing are completely independent from each other.
Can I re-obtain my license after the trial?
If the DMV sustains your license suspension, you can re-obtain your license if you are found not guilty in court. If you are acquitted, the DMV will determine whether or not the suspension will be reversed. Remember: Bargaining for a lower charged does not equal an acquittal. For example: the DMV will not reinstate your license if you were arrested for DUI but only found guilty of reckless driving. Additionally, your license may or may not be recovered if your charges were dismissed. For instance, your license may or may not be reinstated if the DMV sustained your license suspension but the district attorney decided not to file charges against you.
The court may allow you to obtain a restricted license under certain circumstances, even if you are convicted of driving under the influence. After a conviction, the judge may decide that you can obtain a restricted license. To obtain a restricted license, you must demonstrate that you are enrolled in a DUI treatment program. Additionally, you must show that you are financially responsible and pay a $125 fee to reissue your driver's license. Typically, your license can only be reinstated after a 30-day period of mandatory suspension. A DUI attorney can help you further understand your legal options after a DMV hearing and trial.
Your Rights at an Administrative License Hearing
You have the right to retain legal representation for your administrative license hearing. However, you must retain a lawyer at your own expense; an attorney will not be provided for you. You also have the right to review any evidence related to your case and the right to cross-examine any testimony given on behalf of the DMV. You may also testify on your own behalf at a DMV hearing. After the hearing, the DMV is legally obligated to give you a written decision. You may request a review if the DMV sustains your license suspension. If the DMV continues to decide in your favor, you may appeal the decision in the superior court.
The 10-Day Rule: When to Schedule Your Hearing
Schedule your administrative license hearing within ten days of your arrest. Once you receive a notice to request a hearing, you only have ten days to schedule your hearing with the DMV. Your license will be automatically suspended after ten days. You can schedule a hearing in writing, in person, or over the phone. You must provide your name, license number, birth date, and mailing address before the hearing is officially scheduled.