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Can I Appeal the California DMV DUI Hearing?

A DMV hearing provides you with a chance to keep your driver's license after a DUI arrest in California. The DMV hearing is an administrative procedure where your DUI defense lawyer can present a case to show why your license should not be suspended. However, even if the DMV hearing officers find against you during the hearing, you may still have a chance to appeal the hearing, to keep your driving privileges. 

DMV Hearing After a DUI Arrest

One of the first things drivers should think about after a drunk driving arrest in California is their driver's license. During the arrest, the police will generally take away your license and give you a paper from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you do not take the necessary action to request a DMV administrative hearing, your license will be suspended. 

The DMV will administratively suspend your driving privileges after 30 days from a DUI arrest. The only way to avoid a suspension is to request an administrative per se (APS) hearing with the DMV. The DMV APS hearing is not part of your criminal case but it can help you keep your driver's license until your DUI case goes to court. 

Presenting Your Case at the DMV APS Hearing

To schedule a DMV/APS hearing, you must make a formal request with the California DMV Driver Safety Office. A local DUI lawyer can generally make a call to the hearing officers and support staff at the Driver Safety Office to make sure your hearing is requested within 10 days of the arrest.

After scheduling an APS hearing, your DUI defense lawyer will investigate your case, to identify the legal and factual basis for your defense. When you present your case during the DMV hearing, it is not enough to argue that you need your license to get to your job or to pick up groceries. The DMV is not interested in why you want to be able to drive. 

Instead, you have to present a case that there is not enough evidence that you were impaired by alcohol or drugs. In some ways, the DMV hearing is a trial for what your legal defense might be in the criminal court. This could include challenging the traffic stop, probable cause to make the arrest, unlawful search, or casting doubt on the evidence. 

For example, the police may have alleged evidence of the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) being over the legal limit. However, the results of these tests may not be accurate. If the police department did not properly maintain or calibrate the machines, how can you trust their results? Did the police officer properly explain the testing options and consequences and follow the regulations for accurate testing? 

Filing an Appeal of the DMV APS Hearing Decision

If the DMV administrative officer finds against you after the APS hearing, it is not the end of your driving privileges. You may be able to file an appeal, to reverse the findings or get a new hearing. An appeal can be filed with the DMV or with the Superior Court in your county. If the appeal is granted, the license suspension will be “set aside.”

An administrative review must generally be filed within 15 days after the DMV hearing officer's decision. An administrative appeal with the DMV can lay out the argument for why the hearing officer was wrong, including specific errors of law and errors of fact. This can include evidence in support of your claim and expert testimony that supports your case. The DMV can either affirm the DMV hearing decision or set aside the license suspension. The DMV may also arrange for another APS hearing. 

You can also appeal your case directly with the court, after or instead of going through an administrative appeal. You generally have 30 days after an adverse DMV hearing to file an appeal with the court but can be extended if you have filed an administrative appeal. 

There are several bases to file a writ of mandate with the superior court. Under California Code of Civil Procedure 1094.5, the administrative decision can be set aside where: 

  • There was not a fair trial
  • There was a prejudicial abuse of discretion
  • The findings are not supported by the evidence

California Court of Appeals

Even if the California Superior Court upholds the hearing officer's decision, you may still be able to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeals. Filing an appeal can be more complicated, costly, and take time. If you are interested in challenging your case all the way to the appeals court, talk to your California criminal defense lawyer about your legal options. 

East Bay DUI Defense Attorney Representation

An experienced DUI defense lawyer can represent you in both the administrative hearing and the criminal court case. If you get arrested for drunk driving anywhere in Contra Costa or Alameda counties, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the DMV hearing process and criminal DUI defense strategies. With over 37 years of DUI defense experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how to take action to avoid losing your license. Contact our office today for help with your criminal charges.

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