Orange County Criminal Defense
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Newport Beach DMV Hearing Lawyers

California DMV Hearings

When a person is arrested for a DUI, the police take away their driver’s license and issue a pink temporary driver’s license that lasts for thirty days. When that temporary license expires, a person’s driver’s license is automatically suspended for four months or longer, depending on the circumstances of their case. Most people cannot afford to lose their license for such a long period of time. A good DMV hearing lawyer knows how to maximize your chances of keeping your driver’s license.

The law allows a person to request a DMV hearing (also known as an admin per se hearing), within ten days of their arrest, to fight the license suspension. Once the request is made, a hearing date and time is set at a special DMV office called a “driver safety office”. There are only fourteen driver safety offices in the entire state of California. For all DUIs occurring in Orange County, the DMV Hearing is held at the Orange Driver Safety Office. For all DUIs occurring in Riverside County or San Bernardino County, the DMV hearing is held at the San Bernadino Driver Safety Office. For all DUIs occurring Los Angeles County, the DMV hearings are held at one of three Driver Safety Offices – City of Commerce, El Segundo or Van Nuys – depending on the location of the DUI.

Sometimes the hearing date is set after the temporary license expires. At Right Choice Law, our DUI defense team will make sure that your temporary license extends until the date of the hearing – even if the hearing is more than 30 days after your arrest.

The DMV hearing is an administrative hearing which means it functions differently than a criminal case. DMV hearings are very informal in nature. When you show up for your DMV hearing, you are taken to a small office where you sit across the desk from the DMV hearing officer who decides what happens in your DMV case.

DMV hearings are difficult to win for several reasons. First, DMV hearing officers act as both prosecutors and judges. They get to ask you questions and they’re the ones that decide whether you win/lose the hearing. Second, these DMV hearing officers are not lawyers, but they get to decide legal matters – often against the client. Another problem with DMV hearings is that the standard of evidence is much lower than in a criminal case. In criminal court, the prosecution must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. At DMV hearings, the DMV only needs to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. Finally, DMV hearing officers are allowed to rely on hearsay – they don’t need the police officer to testify – they can simply use the police report.

The issues at a DMV hearing are as follows:

  1. Did the officer have reasonable cause to believe you were driving under the influence of alcohol?

  1. Was there probable cause to arrest you?

  1. Was your blood alcohol level .08% or higher at the time of driving?

The DMV doesn’t care about whether you’re “under the influence” of alcohol. They only care about your blood alcohol level.

In a refusal case, the issues are slightly different.

The first two issues remain the same but:

  • Were you warned that you would lose your license for a year if you refused or failed to complete the chemical test?

  • Did you refuse or fail to complete the chemical test?

Even though DMV hearings are difficult to win, there is no harm in requesting a DMV hearing. In fact, the penalty for losing a DMV hearing is the exact same as the penalty for not having the hearing at all.

If you lose a DMV hearing, then it might still be possible to get your full license back with an IID or to get a restricted license that allows you to travel to work, school, court, court-ordered programs and medical appointments.

DUI Driver’s License Suspension

If you lose your DMV hearing in a DUI case, the DMV will suspend your driving privilege. Typically, in a first-time DUI with no accident and no refusal, you will lose your license for four (4) months if you lose the DMV hearing. There are two options for getting your license back after you lose the DMV hearings: (1) ignition interlock device (IID) installation or (2) restricted driver’s license. Both options will require an SR-22 insurance, enrollment in a DUI program and paying a re-issuance fee.

Option 1 – Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

For any DUI that occurred on or after January 1, 2019, you can get your license back with the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on your car. The IID is similar to a breathalyzer that attaches to your ignition and in order to start your car, you have to blow into the breathalyzer. If the IID detects alcohol in your breath, your car will not start. The IID must be on every car that you drive. The IID must remain on your car for four (4) months but there are no restrictions on travel. You can drive anywhere and for any purpose as long as an IID is on your vehicle. If you get the IID before your license suspension start date, then you can go to the DMV to get your license immediately and can drive without ever having your license suspended, as long as you complete all the other requirements of Option 1. The IID will cost approximately $75 to $150 to install and then approximately $60 to $80 per month for monitoring and calibration. There are many different IID providers and you can Google “IID provider” in your county to find the one closest to you.

Option 2 – Restricted License

There are various reasons why someone might not want to get an IID. One common reason is that they don’t want their friends or clients to know that they have been arrested for a DUI. However, if you do not want to install an IID, then the only other way to get your license back is to get a Restricted License. With this option, you have to serve at least 30 days of your suspension before you can acquire the Restricted License. After 30 days of suspension, you can go to any DMV to get the Restricted License (as long as you complete all the other requirements of Option 2). The Restricted License will only allow you to drive for work, school and your DUI program. You cannot drive for any other reason, including taking your children to school. The restricted license will last at least five months. However, it may last longer depending on what DUI program you’re taking. You cannot get your full license back until you complete your DUI program. So, if you’re taking the 9-month DUI program, then your license will be restricted longer than if you’re taking the 3-month DUI program. See below for details on the DUI program.

Other Requirements

Both Options 1 and 2 have three other requirements: a) SR-22 insurance, b) DUI program and c) re-issuance fee.

a) SR-22 is a special type of insurance required by California for people that get a DUI or too many points on their record. It is an insurance that you have to acquire on top of your regular insurance. Your regular insurance provider can give you an SR-22, but your rates will most likely go up if you tell your insurance company you need an SR-22. There are some after-market insurance companies, like Breathe Easy Insurance, that sell SR-22s to people arrested for DUI. It might be possible to get your SR-22 insurance from another company without your current insurance company finding out about your DUI and raising your rates, but you would need to check with the insurance company you purchase the SR-22 from to see if that’s possible. Once you purchase an SR-22, the insurance company will electronically update the DMV, making you eligible for either Option 1 or 2.

b) You will have to enroll in and complete a DUI program to get your license back after it’s been suspended by the DMV. For first time offenders, you will need to either complete a 3-month program (if your blood alcohol level is less than .20%) or a 9-month program (if your blood alcohol level is .20% or more). This will be the same DUI program that the court will require you to complete if you are convicted of a DUI. (Sometimes the court may require you to complete a 6-month DUI program if your blood alcohol level is .15% to .19%.) In order to get your license back, you just need to enroll in the program. Once you are enrolled in the program, the program will electronically update the DMV, making you eligible for either Option 1 or Option 2. However, after you have enrolled, you need to continue to attend the program and eventually complete it, in order to keep your license. If you are ejected from the program because you missed too many classes or didn’t make your payments to the program, then the DMV will be notified and your license will be suspended again.

c) You will be required to pay a re-issuance fee to the DMV. You can pay that at the DMV when you apply for your license. Typically the re-issuance fee is $125 to $140.

Option 3 – You can choose not to get your license back and serve out the full four (4) month suspension. However, even then, you will need an SR-22 and a re-issuance fee to get your license back after the suspension.

In addition to losing your license after losing a DMV hearing, you can lose your driver’s license again if you are convicted of a DUI in court. Please consult with our office to see how your DUI conviction can impact getting your license back.

Helping Clients in Orange County Regain Their Driver’s License

DMV hearings are very technical in nature and it’s almost impossible to defend yourself at one of these hearings. You need an experienced DUI defense lawyer that is familiar with the weaknesses in a DUI case and with the procedures at a DMV hearing.

At Right Choice Law, our Newport Beach DMV hearing lawyers can assist you with your DMV hearing as well as your criminal DUI case. We have more than 75 years of combined experience helping clients throughout Orange County and Southern California get back their driving privileges and obtain the most favorable results in their DUI cases.

If your driver’s license has been suspended because of a DUI in Orange County, contact us today at (949) 570-5232 and request a free case review.

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