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Understanding the DMV’s Role in a DUI Case

Many people ask us, why the Department of Motor Vehicles gets involved in their case when they get a DUI. The answer is, that when a person gets a DUI, he or she will need to fight his or her case not only in the courts, but at the DMV as well. When you arrive at the DMV, you don’t even get to see a judge. Instead, you see a hearing officer, that acts as both the prosecutor and decision maker for your case. The hearing officer is not an attorney or an administrative law judge but instead works for the DMV. This is why hiring a competent DUI attorney is highly advised. You can trust Santa Rosa DUI Attorney Steven Taxman to guide you through the DMV process when you present your case to the hearing officer.

The DMV’s Administrative Per Se (APS) Suspension Action, is often referred to, as the “stop and snatch” law, because the officer takes a person’s driver’s license away right after he or she has been arrested for DUI. The APS suspension law, was enacted to get drunk drivers off the road quickly, because court cases take too long. However, the legislative purpose behind this law, is not well served, because: (1) the 30-day temporary license, attached to the APS order, allows a person to drive for 30 days, before the suspension takes effect; and (2) the APS hearing process can take many months to finally conclude. What this means, is the APS Suspension law, really isn’t getting alleged drunk drivers off the road as quickly as intended. In fact, many times, court cases are concluded, well before a decision is reached on the contested APS administrative hearing.

After an arrest for DUI, if the officer believes, that you are driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher, he or she will confiscate your California driver’s license and hand you an APS suspension order, that for first time offenders, requires a four-month suspension of the person’s driver’s license. However, a temporary license will be made part of the order, allowing you to drive for an additional 30 days.

The most important aspect of the APS process, is that you must request a hearing within 10 days after receiving the APS order of suspension. This is very important, because the DMV will often times deny a hearing, if you fail to request one within 10 days. Although the 10-day requirement doesn’t always bar an untimely request, we have found, that simply calling the DMV within 10 days and then confirming that telephone call in writing, is the best way to get the hearing that you are entitled to. Not only that, but a timely 10-day request, allows you to keep driving on a temporary license, until the hearing officer makes a decision on your case.

For strategic reasons, Santa Rosa DUI Attorney Steven Taxman, prefers an in-person as opposed to a telephone hearing for his clients. Although a telephone hearing is perhaps more convenient, an in-person hearing allows the hearing officer, to actually see and interact with our witnesses, that we believe will be credible. Just as important, it is more effective to cross-examine a police officer in person. Also, a hearing officer, will set aside a suspension, if one of the department’s witnesses doesn’t show up. It is much easier for a hearing officer to get a witness on the telephone, as opposed to the local DMV driver safety office.

The hearings are generally held at the driver safety office that is closest to the place where the arrest occurred, unless the driver and DMV agree to a different location. For example, if the arrest occurred in Santa Rosa or Rohnert Park, the hearing will be held at the Santa Rosa Driver Safety Office. On the other hand, if the offense occurred in San Francisco, the hearing will be held at the San Francisco Driver Safety Office.

Before the hearing, you have a right to see or obtain copies of the department’s evidence. But, copies of the department’s evidence, must be requested at least 10 days before the hearing to receive them before the hearing begins. Santa Rosa DUI Attorney Steven Taxman, believes that carefully reviewing the department’s documentary evidence, is essential to prevail at a DMV administrative hearing. The first thing that our office does, is request for and carefully review all of the department’s evidence, to find technicalities to keep you on the road. Then, we issue subpoenas to the police department that arrested you, the laboratory that maintains the chemical testing device, or tested your blood, to obtain favorable evidence, that may help you win your case.

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