After you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or any other traffic violation and your driver’s license is confiscated, the DMV hearing allows you to retain your driving privileges. In the hearing, your defense attorney presents discovery to show the court why they shouldn’t suspend your driver’s license. However, if the decision by the DMV is adverse, you have the right to file an appeal.
In Bakersfield, you can appeal the decision through the administrative option or file an appeal with the appellate court of the California Superior Court.
At Koenig Law Office, we understand how difficult it can be to lose your driving privileges after a DMV hearing. Therefore, we can help you with the hearing, and even if the decision is against you, we can appeal it. Our defense attorneys understand DMV appeals and will ensure you regain your license.
DMV Hearing After a California DUI Arrest
When a police officer pulls you over for a drunk driving related offense, and after a few tests, observe signs of intoxication, an arrest is inevitable, meaning you should start thinking about protecting your driving privileges. After the arrest, the arresting officer will supply you with a Notice of Suspension and other necessary documentation. If you use your vehicle to drive to and from work or school, they will issue you a pink paper that acts as a temporary license and allows you to travel to restricted areas.
The officer issues you with the temporary license because the law requires them to confiscate your physical license and mail it to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). After the physical driver’s license has been forwarded to the DMV, you will have ten days from the day of the arrest to request a DMV hearing. The administrative hearing is conducted outside the court to determine if there is enough evidence to suspend your driver’s license.
Unfortunately, many traffic offenders don’t request an administrative per se hearing, which results in an automatic suspension of their driving privileges. However, they will pause the license suspension when you ask for the hearing until the DMV hearing’s verdict is out. This is an administrative hearing, so the DMV officer won’t decide if you are guilty or innocent of the charges. Instead, theirs is to examine the evidence presented by your attorney explaining why your driver’s license shouldn’t be suspended. If you win the case, you will retain your driving privileges.
Presenting Your Case in the DMV Hearing
The DMV proceeding is complex, especially if you are a first-time offender. Therefore, if you are scheduling a hearing, ensure you contact an experienced defense attorney to schedule on your behalf. Experienced attorneys have been doing this for a long time, streamlining the process. The attorney will then reach out to the local Driver Safety Office in your locality to ensure the request happens within ten days. The local branch you call is where the proceeding will occur, so it’s critical to pick a convenient one.
The advantage of having an attorney by your side during this process is that they know the location of local driver safety offices. Also, because they are familiar with the process of scheduling hearings in these offices, they will ensure you don’t automatically lose your driver’s license by requesting the hearing promptly. Further, an attorney will appear in these proceedings on your behalf, meaning you can focus on other aspects of your life as they handle the case. Again, you should understand that a DMV hearing can even happen over the phone, so it’s not mandatory for you or the attorney to appear.
It’s worth noting that a driver safety office is not the same as a DMV office because you can’t visit a driver safety office to register your vehicle or obtain a driver’s license. Instead, this is where the DMV hearing officer conducts the proceeding that decides the fate of your driving privileges.
Once you have made the request, the officer will schedule a date for your hearing. As you await the hearing, your attorney should focus on investigating the facts of the case to identify legal defenses that could prevent the suspension of your driver’s license.
You won’t be presenting reasons why you should retain your driving privileges in the hearing. Instead, you will be giving complete and compelling assertions as to why you shouldn’t face charges because you didn’t contravene the law as the state claims. Character and regret evaluation is irrelevant in this administrative proceeding, which is why you should be careful when identifying defense strategies.
Most of the investigations and cross-examinations in this hearing are used as evidence during court proceedings. It means you will be challenging the legality of the arrest and subsequent investigations to prove your innocence. The issues that this hearing addresses include:
- Whether the officer who made the arrest had reasonable belief that you were driving while drunk or drugged or in violation of the law
- If the arresting officer followed the correct procedures when making the arrest
- Whether you were informed that refusal to chemical or breath testing will result in a driver's license suspension for at least twelve months.
- Whether you refused to submit a sample for or complete the chemical testing — The reason for determining this issue is that you might have complications that prevent you from submitting a sample to complete the testing.
Winning a DMV hearing has many benefits. One of the benefits is that the prosecutor's chances of finding you guilty in court are minimal. However, this shouldn’t mean if you win the DMV proceeding, you are guaranteed your driving privileges even when you lose the case in court. If you lose your case in court, the verdict will be forwarded to the DMV, who will then strip you of the driving privileges.
What are the Repercussions of Losing a DMV Hearing?
If the outcome of the proceeding is not in your favor, you will obtain a notice of the facts presented and the hearing officer's findings. Besides, the information will indicate the duration of the suspension. The consequences of license suspension vary depending on the type of driver’s license you possess. Therefore, you should prevent an unfavorable outcome by all means possible.
Appealing the DMV Hearing Decision
Because the verdict by the DMV comes with detailed facts and findings, you can evaluate them with the help of your attorney, and if you are not happy with the decision, you can file an appeal. There are two ways to file DMV appeals in California. One is through the DMV, and the other is through a California superior court.
An Administrative Review by the DMV
If the hearing officer’s decision is unfavorable, this is not the end of the road for your driving privileges. You can request an internal department evaluation of your hearing by the DMV board. You have fifteen days from the date of the driving privileges suspension to file this appeal.
Your attorney can help you with this process by mailing your request for an internal evaluation by a board of supervisors. However, a $120 filing fee must accompany your application. Once the request is received, the office will schedule another hearing. The proceeding will be different from the initial one because it only involves a review of the evidence presented in the initial hearing. However, if a new exculpatory discovery emerges that may save you from the suspension, you can attach it to the request.
Furthermore, when there is new evidence that:
- The Breathalyzer was faulty
- The lab results were mixed, or
- The dashboard cam tape shows a different account from the police report; you can attach this evidence in your appeal because it can help overturn the initial decision.
Similarly, if the blood type on the sample used to conduct the tests doesn’t match your blood type, your attorney should include the evidence in your appeal request.
Once you have presented a strong argument, the rest is up to the board of supervisors from the DMV to decide if to uphold the initial hearing officer’s decision or remand the matter to another hearing for additional review of the evidence.
It’s worth noting that you cannot stay the driver’s license suspension at this hearing.
Once the board receives the appeal, it could take two to three months before deciding. Your driving privileges suspension will be on hold during this time, although a reputable attorney can request a stay on the suspension. However, the request for a stay order is left to a higher appellate court like the California Appeals court or the superior court.
Filing a Petition for Writ of Mandate
The second option of appealing the DMV decision is through the appellate branch of the California superior court. Here, you file a petition for a writ mandate or mandamus, which allows the court to evaluate the merits of the DMV hearing officer’s decision.
Your attorney must file the writ mandate petition within thirty-four days of the date the license suspension took effect if you didn’t request for a DMV hearing. Or within ninety-four days from the time when the hearing officer issued an adverse ruling regarding your driving privileges.
You will need an attorney for this appeal because a writ hearing combines ordinary lawsuit and appeal elements. Also, the filing rules are stringent because the evidence you will be filing will be reviewed by a judge and not a board of supervisors like in an administrative appeal. However, you won’t be filing a complaint like in typical lawsuits. Instead, you will be filing a petition to commence a review of the DMV decision regarding your driver’s license.
Obtaining a Stay of the Driver’s License Suspension
Once you have filed the petition, the next step is to file an ex parte motion to stay the license suspension during the time the judge will be reviewing the DMV’s decision. California statutes allow courts to issue stay orders on decisions made by government agencies like the DMV. By the time the judge reverses the DMV decision, you would have already suffered the consequences of losing your driver’s license.
However, before obtaining a stay of the suspension, the judge will need solid reasons for retaining your driving privileges. You can argue that you drive to and from work or school or have pressing family matters that require you to operate a vehicle. The judge has the discretion to deny the stay order based on the circumstances surrounding your DUI case. If it’s your first DUI with a blood alcohol concentration surpassing the legal limit, the judge is likely to issue the stay order. However, if it’s your fourth DUI offense within the last seven years, had a very high BAC of at least .31%, or were driving on the wrong side of the freeway, the judge will deny the stay.
If the judge grants the stay on the suspension, you should serve the DMV right away to update the information on their computers. Even after you notify the DMV of the stay, carry the hard copy of the order with you because it might take longer than expected for the DMV staff to update your record. Even if you are stopped in traffic, you can avoid another arrest if the system is not updated by producing the hardcopy of the stay on suspension.
After you have acquired a stay on your suspension, the next phase is to prepare an account of the events in the DMV hearing. You can even include the notice with the facts and findings of the hearing officer in the records for the judge to quickly identify where errors might have occurred in the DMV proceeding.
The DMV can prepare these records for you at a price. However, you can obtain them for free if they make duplicates.
Briefing Legal Assertions
After preparing the records that will prove where mistakes occurred in the DMV hearing, the next step is organizing your legal arguments that will point out these mistakes. You will need an experienced attorney because, in this phase, you must make legal arguments why you believe there were mistakes in the DMV hearing. A lot of time is required in this step because you and your legal counsel must conduct extensive research into the DMV laws to make valid arguments.
Again, your criminal attorney must understand the DMV writ statutes and how they fit in your DMV proceeding.
Note that a writ is like a stepping stone to an appeal because many judges are reluctant to reinstate a suspended license involving drunk driving.
After you file your valid arguments in court, the DMV will have an opportunity to settle the issue outside the court. However, before the agency agrees to settle out of court, they must examine your arguments. If you make strong assertions that might win the appeal in court, the DMV will agree to settle because if they lose the case in court, they will pay your attorney fees and other expenses incurred in the appeal, something they are not willing to do.
The DMV will agree to reinstate your driving privileges in cases like these instead of losing the appeal and paying hefty attorney fees. Still, you must agree to waive the attorney fee compensation.
Battling it Out in Court
If the DMV feels they have a stronger case or your chances of losing the appeal are high, they won’t settle. Instead, they will be willing to let the judge decide the matter. This is the stage you have been preparing for throughout, and you are hoping the judge’s decision is in your favor.
Usually, judges write a detailed opinion, explaining their thoughts on the writ and why their decision favors one party instead of the other. Even though being at this phase means the DMV refused to settle, the judge will still offer the losing party a chance to change their mind and explain their mistakes in the DMV decision.
When you win the appeal, the writ will close if the DMV chooses not to appeal the decision. Once the judgment is signed and entered, you will regain your driving privileges and obtain a refund of the attorney fees.
However, when the court sustains the DMV’s decision, you should sit with your attorney and evaluate the verdict. The attorney will consider the merits of the case and the costs involved before recommending an appeal. Note that you will cover the legal expenses incurred by the deputy attorney general because you have lost the case.
If you review the two options of DMV appeals, you will realize that both need an experienced criminal defense attorney. Also, if you engage an attorney in your case immediately after an arrest, you will request a DMV proceeding on time. In addition, you will retain your license with proper preparations, thus not requiring an appeal. However, if the DMV decides to suspend your license, an attorney will help you appeal the ruling using the most efficient and convenient option.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney to Appeal a DMV Hearing Near Me
When you have an adverse decision from the DMV regarding your driver’s license, you can always appeal it. You can go the administrative review way or file for a writ mandate. An experienced criminal defense attorney can represent you in any of these options, and because of their understanding of DMV laws, the chances of winning your DMV appeals are high. At Koenig Law Office, we have a track record in appealing DMV decisions and are ready to help you. Call us today at 661-793-7222 for a free consultation in Bakersfield.