When you commit a first-time DUI offense, your main worry will likely be the possibility of your driver's license suspension by the Department of Motor Vehicles. If the DMV suspends your driver's license, you will have difficulty going to work, attending school, or running other crucial errands. The DMV is the administrative body that maintains motorists' records in California. It imposes administrative punishment on motorists who commit driving violations, including DUI. The DMV treats DUI crimes seriously, imposing harsh penalties on first offenders through license suspension or revocation. If you face a DMV license suspension, our Bakersfield experienced attorneys at the Koenig Law Office can help you defend your license to avoid a license suspension.

First-time DUI Offense

A first-time DUI is a misdemeanor and a lesser crime than subsequent offenses. However, just because a first offense is minor does not mean the DMV will not suspend your driver's license. After an arrest for a DUI offense, law enforcement will confiscate your driving license and serve with a notice of suspension. A notice of suspension means that the DMV will suspend your license in 30 days.

However, you can fight a DMV suspension by requesting a DMV hearing. You will lose your license automatically if you fail to request a hearing within ten days. On the other hand, you will delay the suspension if you request the hearing. When you request a DMV hearing, the DMV puts the license suspension on hold until the conclusion of the hearing.

You can seek the services of an attorney who will request a hearing on your behalf. You can also request the hearing if you choose not to secure an attorney. After an arrest, every day counts. You must request a hearing before the deadline expires.

Preparing For The DMV Hearing

The DMV is always keen on punishing motorists who violate traffic laws. A DUI is frowned upon, making it hard for you to prevail at the DMV hearing. However, if you prepare well, you can still win at the DMV hearing and reinstate your driving license.

You should hire an attorney when preparing for a DMV hearing. Since it is your first offense, you are probably unfamiliar with the statutes surrounding the DMV hearing. Therefore, you will require an attorney to assist you in requesting the hearing and gathering the necessary evidence. You should consult an attorney even if you intend to represent yourself. An attorney will assist you in objectively handling your case and increase your chances of succeeding during the hearing.

Secondly, you should book the hearing or request your attorney to request the hearing on your behalf. You should contact the witnesses and subpoena them immediately after scheduling the hearing. Serving your witnesses with subpoenas increases the chances they will testify on your behalf. You can also enforce the subpoena if they do not attend the hearing.

You must understand the DMV process to know your rights. The rights you have at the DMV hearing include:

  • Securing the services of an attorney.
  • Reviewing the evidence presented against you.
  • Cross-examining witnesses.
  • Filing an appeal or departmental review of an adverse decision by the DMV.
  • The right to a fair consideration of your case by an impartial person.
  • The right to present evidence.
  • The right to subpoena witnesses.

Since your attorney is there to help you with the case, you should pose any questions regarding the DMV hearing so that you can know what to expect. Familiarize yourself with the opening and closing remarks when preparing for the hearing. You must also familiarize yourself with the questions you should pose to the witnesses. This preparation will reduce nervousness at the DMV hearing. Avoid scripting or memorizing your testimony so that it does not seem rehearsed.

Respect the DMV officer during the hearing as you would a judge. After all, the DMV officer is the one who determines the fate of your driving license. Avoid incriminating remarks like apologizing for drunk driving. Instead, table your evidence and let the DMV officer make the final ruling.

You should allow your attorney to handle the hearing on your behalf. You can attend the hearing or allow the attorney to represent you.

The DMV Hearing

A DMV hearing is an administrative hearing. A DMV hearing officer handles this hearing to determine whether to suspend your driving license. The hearing has no criminal court formality, but the proceedings are serious.

You must request a DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest. You can submit your request by visiting the local DMV office or through the phone. You will present your evidence to defend your license during the hearing, which could be conducted in person or over the phone. You can hire an attorney at your own cost to represent you at the hearing. You can also represent yourself if you cannot afford an attorney. You should seek the services of an attorney with experience in handling DMV hearings.

Your attorney will examine the evidence that the DMV has against you and challenge it. The tabling of the evidence is the same as that of a criminal case. The DMV has the burden of proof during the hearing. In this case, the DMV officer must provide evidence that the DUI stop, arrest, and investigation were legal and that you were driving under the influence.

You can request the DMV for the evidence it has against you before the hearing commences. This will give you and your attorney ample time to prepare the necessary evidence to defend you. Your attorney can present witnesses and cross-examine the witnesses presented by the DMV. If you prevail at the DMV hearing, your attorney can use the DMV results to negotiate a plea deal.

Losing at The DMV Hearing

The DMV will suspend your driving license for six to ten months if you do not prevail at the hearing. You can apply for an IID or restricted license to restore your driving privileges. You can also appeal directly to the DMV or file an appeal with the Supreme Court after losing. You should file an appeal requesting an administrative review within 15 days from when your driving license was suspended. You should mail your request for review and meet a filing fee of $120.

The DMV will examine the evidence presented at the hearing. The DMV could decide to do the following:

  • Uphold the hearing officer’s decision to suspend your license.
  • Withdraw the decision to suspend your license.
  • Reopen the hearing.

You can file an appeal with the Supreme Court if you are unsatisfied with the outcome of the DMV hearing. The statute of limitation for filing will depend on whether you file an administrative review. You must file an appeal within 94 days of the administrative review decision if you requested a DMV review. You have 34 days to file an appeal if you did not request an administrative review. You must serve the DMV with the appeal and pay a filing fee, usually payable to the Supreme Court.

The DMV can only suspend your license if the following elements are evident:

  • The law enforcement had realistic or probable cause for the traffic stop.
  • Your arrest was lawful.
  • Your blood alcohol concentration exceeded the legal limit.
  • You were on DUI probation, and during arrest, your BAC level was 0.01% or higher.
  • You refused to take or submit to DUI testing.

Restricted License Or An IID Restricted License

You can request a restricted driving license if you do not prevail at the DMV hearing. You must wait for one month before applying for the license. In this case, you will spend one month on hard suspension before the DMV reviews your application for a restricted license. The following are the conditions you must meet to secure a restricted license:

  • Pay an administrative fee that does not exceed $125.
  • Secure an SR-22 certificate.
  • Enroll in an approved DUI school.

The restricted license permits you to make limited movements when driving. You can only drive to attend a DUI class, take a child to or from school, or commute to work. However, you are better off securing an IID-restricted driving license if your driving routine exceeds the three areas. An IID is generally a small breathalyzer device you install on the dashboard of your vehicle. The IID is designed to monitor your BAC level as you drive.

An IID will always ask for a breath sample before you start the engine. The vehicle will not start if you fail to provide a clean sample. You must call a court-approved installer and pay the required costs for installing the IID device. Unfortunately, you will not be eligible for a restricted license if you were operating a commercial vehicle during the DUI arrest.

You must also serve the DMV with proof of insurance and drive with the IID in your vehicle for at least four months. You must comply with the conditions of driving with the IID. You risk having your license suspended if you violate any conditions.

When A License Suspension Can Lead To Penalties

A license suspension is a significant inconvenience for many people. Some people are tempted to break the law or find a way around a license suspension. You could face criminal charges for:

  • Driving with a suspended license.
  • Violating IID requirements.
  • Violating the conditions of a restricted license.

You could face criminal charges if you willfully drive despite knowing your license is suspended. Judges often charge this crime as a misdemeanor. This offense attracts a jail term that does not exceed six months.

You must comply with the law and the restrictions of a license, even if you have a restricted license. If you fail to adhere to the conditions of the license, then the DMV will suspend your restricted license. The judge could also impose penalties for violating the conditions of an IID-restricted driving license. The violations associated with the IID use include:

  • Failing to maintain the IID.
  • Making someone else give a breath sample on your behalf.
  • Tampering with the device.
  • Failing to maintain auto insurance.
  • Failing to adhere to the requirements of DUI school.

The DMV could suspend your license again if the police arrest you for another DUI crime. The subsequent crime will lead to a more prolonged suspension period.

Defenses Against DMV License Suspension

You are not entitled to a public attorney during the DMV hearing. You should seek the services of an attorney to fight the prosecutor’s claims as to why your license should be suspended. Some of the defenses that your attorney could present include:

You Were Not Driving The Vehicle At The Time of Your Arrest

Your attorney can point out that you were not driving the vehicle at the time of arrest if:

  • There is no evidence to prove that you were driving.
  • The prosecutor fails to present witnesses.
  • The arresting officer personally did not witness you driving.

The judge could dismiss your case if your attorney convinces the court.

The Police Arrested You At An Unlawful Sobriety Checkpoint

You can win the DMV hearing by proving that your arrest was illegal. A DUI arrest can be deemed unlawful if the police stop you at a checkpoint, which does not meet the law's stringent legal requirements.

Your BAC Was Within The Legal Limits

The DMV could suspend your license at the DMV hearing if your BAC levels were not within the required limits. You could sometimes claim that your BAC levels were lower than recorded. You can provide physiological explanations like low-carbohydrate foods, high protein, and residual mouth alcohol, which led to the elevated BAC reading. The suspension could be withdrawn despite what the test results reflect if you prove that your readings have not exceeded the legal limit.

The Breath Test Equipment was faulty.

The breath test equipment must undergo a checkup after every 150 blows or ten days. This is recommended under Title 17 regulations. Your DMV license suspension could be withdrawn if you prove that the equipment used to administer the test was improperly maintained, leading to inaccurate results.

The Police Did Not Observe You For 15 minutes Before Conducting A Breath Test

According to Title 17 regulations, the police who pulled you over must observe you for 15 15-minute observation periods before administering a breath test. The 15-minute observation ensures that you do not engage in anything that can interfere with the test results. Your license suspension could be set aside if the police did not comply with Title 17 regulations during your arrest and DUI testing.

The Arresting Officer Did Not Inform You About The Penalties Of Refusing A Breath Or Blood Test

When the police arrest you for a DUI, they should read the Miranda warning. The police should also inform you about the consequences of a DUI chemical test refusal. The court cannot uphold your license suspension if the arresting officer fails to read your Miranda rights or informs you about the repercussions of refusing to submit to a breath or blood test. The judge could withdraw your DMV license suspension if the arresting officer did not warn you accordingly.

The Police Did Not Have A Justifiable Reason Or Cause To Arrest You

The court will set aside your DMV license suspension if you can provide substantial evidence showing that the police had no legitimate cause to pull you over and detain you.

Restoring Your License After A DMV License Suspension

You can do the following if your license is suspended for the first DUI offense:

  • Visit your local DMV offices and apply for reinstatement.
  • Obtain another auto insurance policy and provide proof by presenting form SR-22.
  • Complete any other sentencing condition, like drug and alcohol treatment program.
  • Complete the DUI school program.
  • Provide evidence of serving a jail term.
  • Ensure you complete the license suspension period.

You must pay $55 to the DMV to reinstate your driving license if it is your first offense.

Driving On a Suspended License

It is an offense under VC 14601 to drive a vehicle after the DMV has suspended your driving license. You could face charges if you operate a car despite knowing your license is suspended or revoked. This crime is a misdemeanor, and the penalties you could face include a fine and a jail term. However, you could challenge this accusation by presenting the following defenses:

  • You were driving on a restricted license.
  • The accusations that led to the suspension of the license were invalid.
  • You lacked knowledge that your license was suspended.

Find a DUI Attorney Near Me

A first-time DUI offense could lead to the suspension of your driving license by the DMV. You must act fast to save your license. If you face a DMV license suspension on the first offense, consult a skilled and competent attorney to help defend your license. At Koenig Law Office, we have experienced attorneys who understand the DMV process. Our attorneys will help you request a DMV hearing and represent you at the hearing. Contact us at 661-793-7222 to speak to one of our Bakersfield attorneys.