Individuals often have to interact with both the Courts of Los Angeles and the DMV in the aftermath of a DUI arrest. That having been said, the two are completely separate organizations. Each one has to obey its own set of rules, and they follow different procedures when dealing with the consequences of an arrest. Dealing with an arrest with one of them, such as by having the DUI charge dismissed in a courtroom, will not settle the matter with the other.
In this case, the DMV is completely responsible for dealing with the license and any suspensions that apply to it. It has the authority to revoke driving privileges without dealing with the Courts. On the other hand, it cannot issue fines, require jail time, or issue most other penalties under its own authority. The Courts do have the authority to issue those sentences to people who are convicted of DUI, but they cannot revoke a person’s driving privileges.
While the DMV has broad powers to restrict an individual’s driving privileges, those powers are not absolute. They can only do so when the individual meets two requirements. First, that person has to have been driving the vehicle. That person must also have been found to have a blood alcohol content of at least .08 when tested. If the person does not meet these two requirements, the DMV cannot suspend their driving privileges after a DUI arrest.
The DMV determines if these requirements have been met independently of the Courts. It does not have to acknowledge any of the arguments that were made in the courtroom regarding a criminal charge of DUI, and it can reach a different conclusion from the Courts. That can happen both because the two organizations are independent and because they are trying to determine different things. The Courts need to decide if the defendant was found driving while intoxicated beyond reasonable doubt, while the DMV only needs to decide if he met the two conditions or not.
That may seem complicated, but it is easy to understand the process by working through an example. Suppose that a person gets arrested for DUI after being found asleep in his vehicle near the side of the road. His Blood alcohol content is .09, which is above the legal minimum for intoxication by a small amount. That is enough to investigate someone for DUI, but it is not a clear case.
When this person goes to court, his attorney can argue a few key points in his favor. His blood alcohol content is right on the edge of the minimum, so it is not entirely clear that he was really intoxicated. He was also found sleeping, rather than driving, which also introduces the possibility that he may not have been controlling the car while intoxicated. He may have been, but there are reasons to doubt that, so the Courts may choose to reduce the charges.
Regardless of their choice, he also has to face the DMV. It can also choose to reduce the length of the suspension, but it does not need to do so, even if the Courts reduced the charges. In this case, the argument that he may not have been fully intoxicated is not relevant. The DMV is only concerned with the blood alcohol content being over .08, which was the case. On the other hand, the fact that he was found sleeping rather than driving is relevant, since the driving is a requirement for a suspension. Since that suspension requires both elements to happen, he may not receive one. If he does, it will be within these maximums:
- 1st offense, no aggravating circumstances: 4 months
- 2nd offense, no aggravating circumstances: 1 year
- 3rd offense, no aggravating circumstances: 3 years
- 1st offense, refusal to take chemical test at time of arrest: 1 year
- 2nd offense, refusal to take chemical test at time of arrest: 2 years
- Any offense, under the age of 21 with any alcohol content, 1 year
Arguing the facts of the case before the DMV can often lead to reduced or even eliminated suspensions. Most people lack the expertise to do it on their own, which is why having a lawyer with experience in Los Angeles’ DUI law is always vital. It’s just as true at the DMV hearing as it is in the Courts.