Having practiced DMV and DUI law for twenty-five years now in LA, I think I have a pretty idea of what goes on at a DMV hearing. There are two ways to conduct a DMV hearing. One is actually to do the hearing face-to-face with the DMV Officer.
Sometimes that's a good strategy depending on the case's particular circumstances. But I find you can also have a very effective method by doing the DMV hearing over the phone. Different lawyers have different approaches, depending on the case, circumstances, and defendant.
Face-to-Face vs. Phone DMV Hearing
One disadvantage of doing it face-to-face and bringing your client to the DMV hearing is that it allows the DMV hearing officer to ask the client's questions. That can sometimes be dangerous because the clients often possess information that can be very incriminating.
For example, they can admit that they were driving at a particular time in a specific location. They can accept drinking alcohol. They can reveal how much alcohol they had during the night of their arrest. They can also admit to whether they had food.
Many of these things can later be used at a trial against the defendant because the DMV hearing is being recorded. This is something you're going to have to discuss with your DMV defense attorney and get a good strategy together as to whether or not you want to do an in-person face-to-face hearing or whether you want to do a hearing over the phone.
What generally happens at a DMV hearing is the DMV has a responsibility in a DUI case in Los Angeles to prove their case. The first thing they're going to do is start moving evidence in.
They'll list all their evidence and say at the end of their evidence -they're going to ask whether there is any objection. Of course, the defense attorney or a person representing themselves in a DMV hearing can make whatever objections they want. The DMV hearing officer rules on the complaint and usually lets the evidence in.
This is unfair because it's almost like a kangaroo court where the DMV is putting on the evidence. The DMV – like the judge – is making rulings on any objections to the evidence, and in the end, the DMV decides whether or not to take your license away. This is called an administrative hearing, and it's done with all DUI cases.
Proving Legal Stop, Lawful Arrest, Blood Alcohol Level
What they have to prove in these administrative hearings is (1) that the police officer lawfully stopped you or came upon you – sometimes you're not even driving; (2) they lawfully arrested you; and (3) your blood alcohol level was a .08 or greater.
If they can prove all three of these things, you will lose your license for some time depending on how many prior DUI's you have or if this is your first DUI offense.
If they cannot prove one of these three things, they will not be able to take your license away administratively. That, of course, does not get you out of the fire because if you are convicted in a court of the DUI, all the court's computers are synced up to the Los Angeles DMV, and they will suspend your license for getting the conviction in court. So, to avoid a conviction altogether, you're going to have to win the administrative hearing, and you're going to have to win in court – not be convicted of a DUI offense.
DUI Lawyer Entitled To Put on Evidence
The defense is also entitled to put on evidence at a DMV hearing so that the client can testify and witnesses can testify. You can subpoena the officer to testify and ask questions about their police report. The DMV can subpoena the officer to ask questions about their account.
Experts can also be called. If you think there's a problem with the blood alcohol level, you can contact your expert, and that expert can put on evidence. That expert can challenge the DMV's case. I see all the time where the DMV even sees themselves – by reading the police officer's report – that they have a problem in a case, so they'll try to call the office and ask the officer questions to get their point that way.
I object all the time. As a defense attorney in a DMV hearing in Los Angeles, I can cross-examine the police officer about some of the things in the police report, my client's blood alcohol level.
There's a lot of things that can be done. In the end, the DMV hearing officer will say, okay, counsel, thank you very much for your information. Thank you very much for your participation in the hearing. I will let you and your client know our decision via mail. Then usually, in a day or two, you're going to get their decision in the mail.
If you brought up some outstanding issues in the DMV hearing, then what I've seen happen is it takes them a long time. I think what they end up doing is they'll run it by the attorneys there at the DMV or run whatever issues by the Mandatory Action Unit, which takes some time.
Temporary Driver's License
So, your client is allowed to drive on that temporary driver's license that they get, or you're allowed to go on the provisional driver's right up until there is a ruling by the DMV. If the DMV suspends your license, they let you know via mail and then discuss with your attorney exactly what you have to do to get your request back.
Typically, you're looking at getting an SR22 proof of insurance, paying a fee to the DMV, installing an ignition interlock device for some time. Depending on your particular case's unique circumstances, there may be some other things.