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California DMV Hearing Lawyer

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 Irvine Driver Safety Office.  For all DUIs occurring in Riverside, 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 the Law Offices of Fred Thiagarajah, 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?

(2)   Was there probable cause to arrest you?

(3)   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.

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 a restricted driver’s license.   A restricted license allows the driver to travel to work, school, court, court-ordered programs and medical appointments.  At the Law Offices of Fred Thiagarajah, our DUI defense lawyers will tell you when you’re eligible for a restricted license, what you need to do in order to get it and how long your restricted license will last.

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 attorney that is familiar with the weaknesses in a DUI case and with the procedures at a DMV hearing.  Our Newport Beach office is just a few minutes away from the Irvine Driver Safety Office and our Beverly Hills office is centrally located between the three Driver Safety Offices in Los Angeles County.  Our DUI defense lawyers can assist you with your DMV hearing as well as your criminal DUI case.

Fred Thiagarajah – The Right Lawyer.   The Right Result.  The Right Choice.


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