Having practiced DMV law 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 to actually do the hearing face-to-face with the DMV Officer. Sometimes that’s a good strategy depending on the particular circumstances of the case. But I find you can also have a very effective strategy by doing the DMV hearing over the phone. Different lawyers have a different approach, depending on the particular case, circumstances and the defendant.
On disadvantage of doing it face-to-face and actually bringing your client to the DMV hearing is that gives the DMV hearing officer an opportunity to ask questions of the client. That can sometimes be dangerous because a lot of times the clients possess information that can be very incriminating to them. For example, they can admit that they were driving at a certain time in a certain location. They can admit to actually drinking alcohol. They can admit to how much alcohol they had during the night of their arrest. They can also admit to whether they had food. A lot of these thing can then later be used at a trial against the particular 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, and of course the defense attorney or a person representing themselves in a DMV hearing can make whatever objections they want and then the DMV hearing officer rules on the objection and usually lets the evidence in. This is where it is a little bit 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.
Basically, 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, then you are going to lose your license for a period of 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, then they are not going to 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 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, in order 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.
The defense is also entitled to put on evidence at a DMV hearing, so the client can testify, and witnesses can testify. You can subpoena the officer in to testify and ask questions about his or her police report. The DMV can subpoena the officer in to ask questions about his or her report. Experts can also be called. If you think there’s a problem with the blood alcohol level, then you can call your own 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 officer and ask the officer questions to try to get their case that way. I object all the time. I, as a defense attorney in a DMV hearing in Los Angeles, am able to 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 is going to 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 via mail what our decision is. Then usually in a day or two you’re going to get their decision in the mail.
If you brought up some real good 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 they’ll run whatever issues by the Mandatory Action Unit and this takes some time. So, your client is allowed to drive on that temporary driver’s license that they get or you’re allowed to drive on the temporary driver’s license up until there is a ruling by the DMV. If the DMV suspends your license they let you know via mail and then you discuss with your attorney exactly what you have to do in order to get your license back. Typically, you’re looking at getting an SR22 which is proof of insurance, paying a fee to the DMV, installing an ignition interlock device for a period of time and there may be some other things, depending on the special circumstances surrounding your particular case.
So, if you have a DUI in California, and specifically, Los Angeles, you’re going to want to get an attorney who has been down this road before and had success. Contact our Los Angeles DUI lawyers to review your case.