Driving Under the Influence

DMV HEARINGS ON DUI CASES

When a person is arrested in California for a DUI, it triggers an Administrative Per Se action (APS) by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. If the DUI arrestee has a California license in their possession, the arresting officer confiscates that license on behalf of DMV. (Although officers sometimes mistakenly do so, they have no legal right to confiscate a driver‘s license issued by another state.)

Whether the arrestee has a California license in their possession or not, the arresting officer serves them with a notice of suspension, which also serves as the DUI arrestee‘s temporary license for 30 days. If the DUI arrestee takes no action, a suspension his driving privilege goes into effect after 30 calendar days. Even if a person has a driver‘s license from another state, the suspension is placed on his ability to drive in California. The length of the suspension depends on whether the arrestee has any prior DUI convictions or APS actions within 10 years preceding the current arrest. These suspension periods are discussed further below.

IF THE DUI ARRESTEE OR HIS ATTORNEY REQUESTS A DMV HEARING WITHIN 10 CALENDAR DAYS OF THE ARREST, THE ARRESTEE CAN HAVE THE SUSPENSION PLACED ON HOLD UNTIL THE CONCLUSION OF THE HEARING.

The APS hearing is held at the DMV Driver‘s Safety Office for the jurisdiction in which the arrest occurred. A DMV employee serves as both the judge and the prosecutor (no kidding). The hearings are typically based on the forms and reports submitted by the arresting officer, unless the DMV or the defense calls witnesses to testify at the hearing.

There issues at a DMV hearing are as follows: 1. Whether the arresting officer had reasonable cause to believe that the licensee had been in violation of one of the DUI laws, 2. Whether he licensee was lawfully arrested, and 3. Whether the licensee was driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08% or higher.

The hearing officer does not typically issue a ruling at the hearing, but instead notifies the licensee of the ruling by mail, typically within several weeks. If the licensee prevails at the APS hearing, the suspension is set aside and his license is returned. The licensee may still face a suspension of driving privileges if convicted of a DUI offense in court, which is discussed below.

If the DMV hearing officer rules against the licensee, the suspension will go into effect on the date stated in the written ruling, which is typically 2-3 weeks after the hearing. The licensee can challenge the ruling through two procedures. The first is a DMV Administrative Review, wherein the DMV itself reviews the ruling. The second is a writ to the Superior Court, wherein a judge determines whether the ruling was appropriate.

For the most part, the DMV and the court actions are independent of each other. There are two major exceptions: 1. If the licensee obtains an acquittal on the DUI case in court, the DMV must set aside any suspension that it imposed as a result of the DUI. 2. If the licensee is convicted of a DUI offense in court, the DMV will impose a suspension, even if the licensee had prevailed in the DMV APS hearing procedure.

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