When it comes to driving under the influence (DUI) in Los Angeles County and the loss of your drivers license, your best strategy is to consult a seasoned DUI defense attorney right away. There are many different factors that go into what will happen with your driver’s license as it relates to a DUI. I always try and get the client into my office immediately so we can lay everything out on the table and see what they are up against and what they can do to defend themselves.
In Los Angeles, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) controls what happens to a person’s drivers license when they are arrested for a DUI related offense. Each person is entitled to a DMV hearing related to their license, as long as they contact the DMV or have their attorney do so within ten days of their arrest. When we call the DMV for our clients and ask for a hearing related to the suspension, we always make sure to send a letter to confirm the request and confirm the fact that we called within the appropriate time frame. This of course is to guard against the DMV trying to claim they never received the request.
Once the DMV is contacted, the person whose license was taken away from them is entitled to a hearing either in person or over the phone. The DMV will then send a copy of the evidence they are going to use against the person in order to prove their case. The person whose license is subject to being suspended can also present evidence at the hearing and ultimately a DMV hearing officer will decide if they met their burden for purposes of suspended the person’s drivers license.
If a person wants to present evidence or witnesses to defend against their license being suspended, they must turn it over to the DMV prior to the hearing so they have a chance to try and refute it if they can. Also, both the Department of Motor Vehicles and the client have the right to subpoena witnesses to testify at the DMV hearing if they so choose. Finally the defendant can testify at the hearing if they chose, but can not be forced to do so by the DMV. However, if they testify, then the DMV hearing officer is given the opportunity to ask questions as well.
The DMV must show that the subject person was lawfully pulled over, lawfully arrested, and that their blood alcohol level was a .08 or greater at the time of driving. If they can show all three of these requirements, then they will suspend the person’s drivers license. The length of the suspension depends on the person’s criminal / driving record, how many prior DUI’s they have and whether they refused to take the a blood or alcohol test when asked to do so by the police. If, on the other hand, the DMV hearing officer is unable to prove one of the above three requirements, then they are unable to suspend the license administratively.
Unfortunately, going against the DMV is an uphill battle for many reasons. First, they have the police as their main witnesses and evidence. California law permits them to submit the police report in order to form the basis for their case against the person subject to suspension. As you can guess, this creates a situation which is very difficult to defend against. The Department submits the police report as evidence, the defense objects and the objection is overruled and the police report is typically always admitted into evidence. This procedure makes it very difficult to win a DMV hearing. Of course the defense can subpoena the arrested police officer under the appropriate circumstances and ask as many relevant questions as they deem appropriate to try and undermine the case against them.