The DMV Hearing Following a DUI Arrest
If you are reading this page, and you have been arrested for a DUI, read on, as it is important that you understand all of the information on this page. Once you are arrested for a DUI you will need to defend yourself in two different venues. The first venue is the superior court of the county in which you were arrested. So for our clients that will be either San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, Santa Barbara County Superior Court (in Santa Barbara there are three courts: Santa Barbara Court, Santa Maria Court, and Lompoc Court) or Ventura County Superior Court. In the court you will defend yourself against a criminal prosecution and the court will seek to punish you with county jail, probation, alcohol classes, drivers license suspension, and fines.
The second venue in which you will need to defend yourself is the DMV. The DMV hearing is your opportunity to defend yourself from having your license suspended. The length of the attempted license suspension will vary depending on the charges brought against you, and the number of times you have been convicted of a DUI in the past 10 years, but this can range from 4 months (for a first DUI if you are over 21 and did not refuse the chemical test) to several years depending on your specific circumstances.
DMV Hearing Basics
A DMV hearing is a hearing overseen by a DMV hearing officer who is trained in administering the hearings, but who is not an attorney and is not a judge. In the hearing your DUI attorney will defend you, while the DMV hearing officer will act as both the prosecutor who presents the case against you, and also as the judge who determines who wins the hearing. If the inherent lack of fairness of this arrangement is troubling to you, you are in good company. Every DUI attorney feels the same way. Nevertheless, this is the reality of the DMV hearing, true fairness does not exist in these situations.
In the standard DMV hearing there will be 3 specific issues covered (the issues are slightly different if you are under 21, or you refused the chemical test). These issues are:
1. Was there reasonable cause to believe you were driving in violation of Vehicle Code Section 23152?
2. Was the arrest lawful?
3. Were you simultaneously driving the vehicle while you had a BAC of 0.8 or higher.
The DMV hearing officer will consider your defense against each of these issues. IF you are able to prevail at persuading the DMV hearing officer that any one of these issues has not been established at the hearing, then you win and the DMV will “set aside” your license suspension.