Cases before the Motor Vehicle Division or similar entity are typically administrative proceedings. They are not as formal as criminal cases. An administrative law judge may decide the case after a hearing requested by the defendant. The judge is responsible for determining whether the license should remain suspended or not.
Some states automatically suspend a driver’s license upon a DUI arrest. However, this suspension may be stayed if a request for a hearing is made within the appropriate amount of time. Ordinarily, there is a very limited amount of time to request a hearing in front of the appropriate administrative agency, typically within 10 to 15 days, depending on state law. Other states allow the suspension to stay in place until the decision regarding the suspension is made.
Implied Consent Laws
Many states have implied consent laws that require a person to consent to a chemical, breath or field sobriety test if he or she is pulled over for suspicion of DUI or upon arrest as a condition of receiving a driver’s license, depending on the state’s specific laws.
Process of Motor Vehicle Division Cases
After the hearing is requested, a date is set. The defendant can retain the services of a DUI lawyer to represent his or her interests at the case. The hearing usually starts out with the arresting officer providing testimony about the reasons for the stop, what tests were conducted, the results of the test and which procedures were followed. After this testimony, the defendant’s lawyer may cross-examine the witness. During this time, the officer may make statements that call his or her credibility or the test results into question. In other instances, the officer may make conflicting testimony during this hearing that may be used later to negotiate a plea bargain or dismissal for the criminal charges.
The DUI lawyer can also challenge evidence, raise legal arguments, subpoena witnesses and take other steps to help protect the defendant’s driving privileges. After the hearing concludes, the administrative law judge issues a decision in which he or she upholds the suspension or lifts it.
Issues in Administrative Cases
Administrative cases involving license suspensions due to DUI may involve many legal issues, beginning from the start of the encounter until well after arrest. The first issue may be whether the officer who initiated the traffic stop had reasonable suspicion that the driver was driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Additionally, the rules regarding implied consent may be taken into consideration, such as whether the driver is subject to an automatic suspension for refusing a test required by law. The agency may consider whether the defendant refused a test and if he or she was made aware of the consequences for refusal.
The administrative agency may also inquire into the tests that were administered and how these tests were administered. The agency may also assess whether the defendant was placed under arrest due to a DUI charge. Of particular importance is whether the officer initiated a test that showed a BAC over the legal limit, usually 0.08 percent or more. If the arrest was on a commercial driver who was driving a commercial vehicle at the time of arrest, the relevant level is 0.04 percent. In zero tolerance states in which someone under 21 is pulled over, a reading of 0.02 or 0.01 can be over the legal limit, depending on state law. The agency may consider whether the testing method was valid and can be relied on. Additionally, it may also consider whether the determination of test results was evaluated.
Losing an administrative hearing can result in significant consequences. Losing this hearing may result in the loss of driving privileges for many months or even years. In some instances, a person may not be eligible to receive a hardship license that may otherwise permit driving to work, school or the doctor. With such significant risks on the line, many individuals who are confronting administrative hearings may hire a DUI lawyer to represent their interests in hearings of this nature. He or she can explain the benefits of requesting a hearing of this nature.