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Upon being arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) in California, there are two seperate legal proceedings you will need to be aware one. The first will be the criminal charges that will require you to appear before a California Criminal Judge. Most people are aware of this process, and accept that it is imperative to have a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer to help guide you.
But there is a second set of legal proceedings, and many people don’t realize the importance of also have a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer at your side there too. Upon being charged with DUI, you will not only have to deal with your criminal case, but also deal with an administrative hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) regarding the status of your license. And if your ability to continue to drive is important to you, it’s in your best interest to have legal representation in both sets of proceedings. It’s important to note that these two sets of proceedings operate indepdently of each other. The outcome of your DMV hearing has no bearing on your criminal case, and likewise your DMV hearing results have no effect on your criminal proceedings. In fact, one set of proceedings can be completed or dismissed while the other is still pending.
Staying your Suspension and Scheduling a Hearing
At the time of your arrest, the law enforcement officer responsible for your arrest will confiscate your drivers license and issue you a temporary license. This temporary license replaces your permanent license and is designed to allow you to get your affairs in order before any potential full suspension begins.
The first step is to set up your DMV hearing regarding your driving priveleges. To set up this hearing you must call the DMV within ten days of your arrest to get the hearing scheduled. Failure to set up this hearing within that ten day window will waive your right to be heard, and your license will automatically be suspended. These are not business days, meaning weekends also count. Making this call is important as it not only gives you an opportunity to be heard, but it stays any potential suspension allowing you additional time to drive. When calling to request a stay and a hearing, it is also important that you request a copy of your police report. The State is required to provide you a copy ten days before the hearing if a copy is requested.
Defenses in the Hearing
There are three primary issues that are considered at your DMV hearing, and prevailing on one of them will be enough to overturn your suspension:
The first issue is if the law enforcement officer had cause to believe you were violating DUI laws. That evidence is typically the same that will be heard at your criminal trial. The DMV hearing officer will consider whether there were field sobriety tests, whether you were slurring your speech, and if there was any alcohol or drugs present. The DMV will also attempt to determine if the arrest itself was lawful. Defenses would include any illegal seizure.
The final point considered by the DMV is your BAC. If you agree to give a BAC test, the results of that test are admissible in these hearings. Your defense could also include that your BAC may have been elevated at the time of testing, but that it was below .08% at the time you were actually operating the vehicle.
Given that the third point of the equation is essentially moot if no BAC testing is done, the DMV will instead consider (1) Did the officer inform you that a refusal to take the test would lead to suspension of your license for up to three years, and (2) whether you did willfully refuse to submit to chemical breath or blood tests after a sample was requested by Law Enforcement. At the end of the hearing, the fate of your license is in the hands of the DMV.