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DMV Blocked from Suspending Driver’s License for DUI

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | May 31, 2022

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has been blocked from suspending driver's licenses for DUIs in some circumstances. A California judge has ruled that the DMV's administrative practice of suspending licenses in DUI cases violates people's civil rights. 

They're not given the right to confront their accuser.  Defense attorneys have always argued that the DMV and how they handle administrative hearings is a kangaroo court. 

Because what ends up happening is that the DMV puts on the case against the person who was arrested for a DUI, and then they rule on all of the objections, and then finally, in an ultimate kangaroo court, they rule on whether or not the person's license is going to get suspended.

DMV Hearing in California

It ends up being a situation where they're putting on two hats inappropriately. It looks like, at least as of today's date, May 2022, they've got a problem doing it that way.  Don't be deceived because they can still suspend a license if a person in court pleads guilty or has no contest to a DUI. 

The court's computer in California sends that information to the DMV, and they have confirmation of it.  They can then suspend the person's driver's license based on the conviction in court, or of course, if someone gets a fair shake in court, you're entitled to have a defense attorney. 

There's a prosecutor and a judge that rules on objections, and finally, you get a jury trial if you choose to defend your case. That's the classic court suspension. 

However, in an administrative hearing, which has always been another way for the DMV to take a person's driver's license away, you do not have that opportunity to have a judge rule on objections and decide the case. You don't get a jury.

The DMV puts the evidence on. The DMV hearing officer makes decisions on objections. Finally, the DMV plays judge or jury in deciding whether or not your driver's license will be suspended.  Our Los Angeles DUI lawyers will review it in more detail below.

What is a DMV Hearing?

DMV hearings go hand in hand if you have been arrested for a DUI under California Vehicle Code 23152 VC.  The Department of Motor Vehicles controls your driver's license, so they are the enforcement arm of the courts. 

When you go to a criminal court, judges will not usually get involved with anything with your driver's license.  They might tell you that you must comply with the DMV orders, but they don't suspend people's driver's licenses because they allow the DMV to handle them.

What is a California DMV Hearing?

So, let's examine what happens in a DMV hearing.  First, when someone hires us, we call the Department of Motor Vehicles. There is an attorney line, and we tell them we have been retained on the case, and then we ask for a hearing date and a stay on any suspension against our client until we get the hearing.

If we do that within ten days of your arrest, the DMV will give us a hearing date, and the client will be able to drive while they wait for the hearing to occur. 

On the hearing date, typically, we call in.  We could also appear in person if we think that will be advantageous to our client based on the facts and circumstances surrounding their DUI. 

However, it's typically done over the phone, and what we're going is that the DMV, through their hearing officer, is going to put on the evidence for the department. 

They start by putting up the police report, and any other documentation they think is relevant to the case.  They let the attorney make an opening statement, put up any evidence, and then let the defense do a closing argument.

DMV Administrative Hearing is a Kangaroo Court

The DMV hearing is a bit of a kangaroo court. The hearing officer putting up all the evidence is also the same person who will rule on any objections and decide whether or not the driver's license is suspended.  The hearing officer has several functions:

  • They are operating as the prosecutor in the hearing, and
  • They are operating as judges in deciding on rulings of any objections and what evidence comes in, and
  • whether or not your license is suspended.

Once all the evidence has been presented and arguments completed, the hearing officer will tell us we will let you and your client know via mail what our decision is.

They will look at what was put into evidence and whether or not they can meet their burden to suspend someone's license.

In my experience, this will typically occur in just a few days. It takes longer when it's a real close call, and they decide to send it to their mandatory actions unit.

DUI Defense Lawyer in California

This issue has always been a problem. Defense attorneys have consistently argued against that, but apparently, we've got a judge who is now agreeing that kangaroo court practice is inappropriate. A judge has now said it violates a person's constitutional rights.

So we'll see whether now the DMV will be stopped from doing that together and will never be able to do it again, or they're going to have to change their administrative practices or whether somehow, that judge's decision will be appealed or reversed.

If you or a loved one has a DUI and needs assistance, you've come to the right place.  I've been doing this for almost 30 years.  I worked for the district attorney's office as a superior court judge. Finally, in the 1990s, I began defending people like you charged with DUIs and getting successful results.

Pick up the phone and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  We'll talk about everything related to your DUI, including the court process, and we'll figure out what type of strategy we will employ to get you the best result about the circumstances of your case.  We offer a free case review by phone or through the contact form.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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