A Department of Motor Vehicles hearing/ DMV hearing can stem from a California DUI, accumulation of many "points” on your traffic records, a road accident that resulted in significant injury or fatality, among others. Consequently, your driving privileges might be suspended or revoked. A criminal defense attorney who is conversant with DMV hearings might be what you need to defend you in a DMV hearing. If you are summoned for a DMV hearing in Bakersfield, get in touch with us at Koenig Law Office so that we can help defend you.

Overview of DMV Hearings

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is a federal entity with extensive ability to revoke or suspend someone's driving privileges in California if there is a valid reason. It is also responsible for issuing driver's licenses to all residents of the state.

DMV grants driver's licenses and maintains a DMV driving history that includes accidents, refusal to attend court hearings, counts of points dependent on criminal charges or accidents, issuance of endorsements, as well as a variety of other driving issues. The DMV has an agreement with other entities and states that allow it to share data on driving records.

The DMV may also try to prevent you from driving under particular circumstances. If your driving privileges are suspended or revoked by the DMV, California laws require that you be given the chance to provide evidence to have the action reversed. Whereas driving in the State of California is regarded as a privilege, when earned, it then becomes a fundamental right with significant value. When the DMV tries to take away a person's driving privilege, the Regulations of Procedural Due Process give that individual the right to challenge the government's decision.

A well-run Administrative Hearing functions similarly to a "mini-trial." The proof is presented, objections are taken into account, witnesses could testify, and also experts may express their opinions. Because these are complex legal procedures, if you represent yourself at a DMV Hearing should be familiar with the Vehicle Code, Government Code, Code of Civil Procedures, as well as the California Evidence Code.

There's no necessity that an individual retain legal counsel because California law allows you to represent yourself throughout all Administrative Hearings. However, because the DMV procedure can be extremely difficult to comprehend and could create a huge amount of stress, the law allows an accused individual to be defended by anybody they choose.

Many drivers believe that hiring DMV Defense Specialists, also called Administrative Advocates, is a good idea. The highly skilled and knowledgeable representatives are well-versed in the applicable laws as well as DMV procedures governing a huge spectrum of Administrative Hearings.

The following are among the most common hearings that the DMV conducts:

  • Administrative Per Se hearings
  • Fatality administrative hearings
  • Negligent operator administrative hearings
  • Fraudulent activity administrative hearings
  • Lack of skills administrative hearings
  • Financial responsibility administrative hearings
  • Physical or mental administrative hearings
  • Special certificate administrative hearings

Administrative Per Se Hearings

The majority of DUI offenses will need you to show up at a Superior Court as well as a DMV hearing at a Drivers Safety office. The procedure begins with a law enforcement officer presenting a temporary driving permit to you if you have been arrested for DUI or if you are arrested for driving in violation of another DUI-related regulation, such as the zero-tolerance rule for those on probation for DUI, minors, or even a DUI by a driver below the age of 21. The police officer will grant the temporary driving permit on a DS-367, which shall allow you to seek a DMV hearing.

When you are arrested for DUI, it is typically advisable that you seek a hearing since the revocation or suspension of your driving license may be automatic if you do not request a hearing. Nonetheless, there are times when the hearing shouldn't be sought because it allows the DMV to review your record and impose far more harsh driver's license penalties.

The DMV procedure is administrative and therefore does not require you to attend in person.  The DMV protocol allows for telephone testimony, therefore your attorney could have an expert speak on your behalf over the phone. Expert evidence is particularly important since it enables the DMV to extend the burden of proof, who should then summon their expert to refute the respondent's claim.

It's not unusual for the Department of Motor Vehicles to choose not to summon its expert, which presents a strong argument for a "set aside," mainly because your expert could attest that you weren't driving over the legal limit during the moment of driving based on the weight of the facts.

The DMV shall prepare a suspension or revocation of driving privileges notice and send it to your last registered address when they obtain a copy of the DS-367 document from the citing officer. Once the Driver Safety offices receive your plea for a DMV hearing promptly, you can disregard the notice or contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify that the revocation or suspension won't take effect till after the hearing.

Negligent Operator Hearings

The phrase "negligent operator" applies to a driver's license revocation or suspension imposed by the California Department of motor vehicles if the driving record accumulates numerous points during a short amount of time. Moving offenses, and also criminal traffic crimes like DUI or negligent driving, are penalized with points. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) assigns points to your record. This happens  for the following four types of occasions:

  • Accidents
  • Mechanical breaches that jeopardize driving safety
  • Moving infractions, as well as
  • Criminal driving violations

However, even if you have received no additional points, the DMV can hold a fatality hearing potentially suspending your license in severe or deadly accidents.

If you drive a car that has mechanical issues, they will get one point. Additionally, most moving offenses are penalized with a single point. They include offenses such as:

  • Driving on the freeway at speeds of higher than 70 miles per hour under VC22356
  • VC 21751, illegal passing
  • Crossing a multi-lane highway (VC 21651)

You get 2 points for criminal driving offenses like:

  • Misdemeanor hit and run under VC 20002
  • Driving with a suspended driving permit under VC 14601
  • DUI

You can request a DMV negligent operator hearing to dispute the status of a negligent operator or to get your driving license suspension lifted. The request is made upon receiving a Level III or IV letter.

The hearing for a negligent operator is held at a Department of Motor Vehicles office and is conducted by a DMV hearing official. The goal of the hearing is:

  • To assess the driver's driving history
  • To assess whether the motorist is a reckless driver
  • To establish the condition of the driving license of the driver

Fatality Hearing

When someone drives a car and embraces the duty of operating the vehicle on a public road, they also take on the responsibility of operating in a cautious, sensible, and methodical manner to avoid disasters.

Driving is undeniably a difficult endeavor that necessitates multiple degrees of understanding, skill, and expertise. Accidents inevitably happen, and more often than not, result in death or serious injury. When a traffic collision leads to a fatality, the DMV will launch an inquiry to see if the motorists involved contributed or caused the fatality.

The Department of Motor Vehicles may declare the charged driver a Negligent Operator and take away their driver's license if their conduct caused a deadly accident or when the driver refused to employ sufficient caution to prevent the accident.

If your driver's license is suspended or revoked because of your role in a deadly road accident, you will be given the right to defend yourself at a Fatality Hearing. The fatality hearings are conducted in the manner of mini-trials, with the accused having the opportunity to submit proof and testimony in their case. These are extremely complicated and intimidating proceedings that necessitate a huge amount of planning. Even though a motorist has the option of defending themselves, the law allows them to be defended by a highly certified DMV Defense Specialist.

Fraudulent Activity Hearings

The issuing of a California driving permit is among the most important responsibilities undertaken by the California DMV. Once the DMV grants or renews a driver's permit, the agency verifies that the bearer can drive a specific type of automobile but also that the bearer's true identification has been validated.

When the DMV discovers that the applicant or owner of a California driver’s license has gotten a license fraudulently or unlawfully, or has utilized the driving license for any fraudulent reason, the DMV will label the act as Fraudulent Activity and will then proceed immediately to revoke, suspend or decline the license.

Generally, there are two types of fraudulent activity:

  • An individual who obtains a driving license by any illegal methods.
  • An individual who violates the California Vehicle Code by using a driver's license in an inappropriate manner

Drivers are notified of their license suspension by:

A DMV Employee

Among the most typical instances of Fraudulent Activity happens when an individual attends a DMV office without being adequately prepared to seek for or renew their driver's license. People are frequently caught when a DMV staff believes the applicant is cheating on a driving or written test.

When this happens, the applicant shall be removed from the Field Office and told to wait to hear from the Driver Safety Office in four to six weeks.

An Investigation by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

The DMV is a government entity that hires certified peace officers to be department investigators. If you are contacted by a DMV Investigator, you may know about DMV scrutiny based on the complaint against you.

Law Enforcement Officers

In certain scenarios, you could become the subject of a police investigation by state, local, or federal authorities, who may then send your matter to the Department of motor vehicles.

US Mail

Without a doubt, the most typical way for a motorist to discover they are being investigated by the Department of motor vehicles for fraudulent activity is to receive a letter brought by the US Postal service. When the DMV accuses a person of engaging in fraudulent activity, it will usually suspend or revoke the driving permit and inform the driver through the mail.

The law provides that whenever the DMV takes action to reject, revoke, or suspend someone's driving license for engaging in fraudulent activity, the individual should be given the chance to defend him or herself. The driver has the right to request and attend an administrative hearing, where they can review the DMV's proof and examine any witnesses.

The individual must be given the chance to defend their rights as well as to clear their record since a driving license revocation or suspension for fraudulent activity is for an indefinite period, and will show on the driver's record for many years.

Special Certificate Hearing

California's public highways are busy with movement each day. Public streets, as well as highways, are clogged with motorists driving a wide range of automobiles. Soccer moms drive their kids to practice, limo drivers carry their clients, and truck drivers deliver cargo.

Each one of these operators needs to have been tested and validated to ensure that they are qualified to operate their specific vehicle class. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for ensuring that every driver has the necessary skills and expertise to properly drive their vehicle.

Aside from the many types of driving licenses, there is a category of motorists who must meet even more stringent requirements before being allowed to drive certain types of cars. On top of having a Class "A" or a Class "B" driving license, the drivers must also have special permission to drive their specialty vehicles.

The motorist must be vetted before being granted permission to operate certain classes of automobiles. Special Certificate bearers must pass a background check as well as demonstrate a higher standard of individual and professional responsibility than regular drivers.

Once the DMV obtains knowledge that a motorist does not satisfy the "high standards" demanded of a special certificate driver, it will often refuse to grant the Certificate; or revoke the current Special Certificate of the driver. The following are some examples of causes for suspension or revocation:

  • Arrests for illegal activities even though it does not result in a conviction
  • Police investigations even though no arrests are made
  • Moving offenses in the past that indicate careless operation
  • A record of road accidents that suggests that the driver is operating negligently
  • Physical or mental illnesses
  • Acts of "moral depravity" that hurts public trust

You are eligible for Procedural Due Process once the DMV declines to grant you a Special Certificate or revokes your current Special Certificate. This means that you have the right to defend yourself before the DMV at a Special Certificate Hearing.

Lack of Skill Hearing

After a person receives a driving license, the DMV is responsible for monitoring that individual to guarantee that they are physically and mentally able to drive, and also that they have the knowledge and skill to drive.

Whenever circumstances or information emerge that imply a motorist no longer has the Ability to Drive, then the DMV has to investigate.  An Absence of Skill concern may emerge if the following events occur:

  • At a police stop, a police officer notices or observes something that leads him to believe the motorist lacks the understanding or aptitude to drive on the road. This is something that is seen a lot with mature drivers when police officers feel that their seniority is impacting their driving skills
  • In the course of an investigation into a traffic accident, a police officer may notice or overhear something that suggests the accident occurred since the driver lacked the essential ability or expertise to prevent the accident
  • This is common in instances of improper application of the pedal where the driver unintentionally hits the accelerator rather than the brake
  • The afflicted driver is unable to finish a written test while renewing their driving license or at a Re-Examination by the DMV.
  • The driver in question is unable to take a "behind the wheel" driver's test while renewing their driving license or at a Re-Examination by the DMV.
  • An obtained word from a colleague, friend or relative, or anonymous source. Any accusation that a motorist cannot drive must be investigated by the DMV, irrespective of the source of the information

And similar to other hearings, the driver has to be granted the chance to defend him or herself. If you don't reach out to the Driver Safety Offices within ten to fourteen days, you'll lose your right to the DMV hearing and the license suspension takes effect.

Financial Responsibility Hearings

The State Legislature in California created a series of legislations in 1974 that required all California motorists to have the financial means to recompense anyone who suffered losses, injuries, or fatalities as a result of their driving. For years, if the people who were involved in a road accident weren't affluent, there wasn't any possibility of recovering damages from the accident.

When the Department of motor vehicles believes that an individual who owned or drove an automobile was involved in a road accident was not adequately protected by Financial Responsibility, the agency will first send a notification to the accused party, requesting proof of coverage.

This notification called a Courtesy Reminder, informs the concerned individual that the Department of motor vehicles believes they were involved in an actionable traffic collision and also that they didn't have proof of Financial Responsibility. This Courtesy Reminder gives the person who is involved 10 days to show evidence of financial accountability.

When the concerned operator of the automobile disregards this Courtesy Reminder and fails to show evidence of Financial Responsibility, then the DMV will send an Order of Suspension. The order shall inform the relevant party that the Department of motor vehicles has started the process of suspending their driving permit, as well as the day on which the suspension shall take effect.

The letter also informs the concerned party that they have been given the right to attend an Administrative Hearing to argue why their license suspension is unjustified, however, they will only be granted 14 days to seek one; otherwise, the license suspension will take full effect.

If your license is revoked or suspended following a DMV hearing, you get the option of requesting a departmental motion for reconsideration, and also an appeal to the California superior court. Based on the rules that apply to your issue, petitions for an appeal have to be submitted within a particular time frame. The deadlines for filing an appeal, as well as other details about your appeal options, will be listed on the letter informing you of the decision from the hearing.

Find a Bakersfield Criminal Defense Attorney

We at the Koenig Law Office have experience preparing and defending clients who are going through DMV hearings. Our firm is well-versed in the current developments and difficulties in this field. Please contact us at 661-793-7222 for a free initial case evaluation if you are in Bakersfield, CA.