After a drunk driving arrest in Oakland or the East Bay, drivers will have to deal with a criminal case and an administrative suspension. These separate issues can be handled by the same East Bay DUI defense lawyer, as long as you choose the right attorney. The criminal case and the administrative hearing can be similar but they are separate matters. Even if you win your DMV administrative hearing, you will likely still have to deal with the criminal case.
What Is the Difference Between the DMV Hearing and the Criminal Case?
When you are arrested for driving under the influence in California, the arresting officer will take away your driver's license and give you a temporary permit. Taking away your license is an administrative procedure because you have still not been found guilty of a crime. If you don't request a DMV hearing within 10 days of the arrest, your driving privileges will be suspended after 30 days.
Separately, you may be facing California criminal charges for drunk driving. You may be arraigned shortly after arrest and will likely be released and given a future court date. This is the criminal case and a guilty plea or jury finding of guilty will result in criminal sentencing.
You have the right to challenge both the administrative suspension and the criminal charges. The right experienced East Bay DUI defense lawyer can even represent you in both the DMV hearing and defend your rights in criminal court.
DMV Administrative License Suspension Hearing After a DUI
Under California law, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is required to suspend or revoke the driving privileges of any person arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, who:
- Has a blood alcohol of .08% or greater; or
- Refuses a chemical breath or blood test.
For most drivers, failing a blood or breath test means testing with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, the BAC limit can be lower for the following drivers:
- Drivers under 21: 0.01% BAC
- Drivers on DUI probation: 0.01% BAC
- Commercial drivers while driving a commercial vehicle (CDL): 0.04% BAC
However, there is a process to get your driving privileges reinstated so you can keep driving after 30 days from the arrest. This requires a formal request for a DMV hearing from your area DMV Driver Safety Branch Office. The East Bay Driver Safety Branch Office is located:
Oakland DMV Driver Safety Branch
7677 Oakport St. Suite #220
Oakland, CA 94621
Phone: (510) 563-8900
If you don't request a hearing within 10 days, the suspension will be automatic and you can't challenge it until after your criminal case. Even if you request the hearing one day late, it may be too late to keep your license. Your local East Bay DUI defense lawyer can request a hearing to help you keep your license, so call as soon as possible.
At the DMV Hearing
At the DMV hearing, your attorney can present evidence in support of your case. The DMV officer is not interested in hearing why you need your car, instead, the hearing will only deal with the validity of the arrest, including reasonable cause to believe the driver was operating the vehicle while impaired, the arrest was lawful, and the driver was operating with a BAC over the limit.
Criminal Case for Vehicle Code Drunk Driving Charges
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152:
(a) It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.
(b) It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.
In the criminal case, your attorney can present your case to a judge and jury. The county prosecutor has the burden to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney can investigate the facts of your case, to show doubt about whether the traffic stop was valid, the police did not have probable cause, or the chemical tests were not reliable.
How Is an Administrative Hearing Like the Criminal Case?
The APS hearing and the criminal DUI case are similar because they are both dealing with determining whether the driver violated California impaired driving laws. In a way, the APS hearing can act like a mini-trial for your criminal case. If your East Bay DUI defense lawyer can win your DMV hearing, then there is a good chance your attorney will have a positive outcome in your criminal case.
For example, if the DMV hearing officer finds in favor of the driver because the police officer made an unlawful traffic stop, then a judge or jury in a criminal case may also find the police officer made an unlawful traffic stop. It is not a guarantee but it is generally a good sign.
Differences Between the Administrative and Criminal DUI
A DMV hearing and a criminal case are related but very different. The consequences of losing your DMV hearing will generally mean your license is suspended. The consequences of losing your criminal case can be much more severe, including fines, probation, and possible jail time.
The administrative hearing is decided by a hearing officer who is an employee of the DMV. The criminal case can be heard before a judge and a jury. The judge can make decisions about questions of law and the jury can make decisions on questions of fact. A jury of your peers could respond to your defenses very differently than an administrative officer.
What Is the Burden of Proof?
The burden of proof for an administrative hearing is also different from the criminal case. The burden of proof involves how likely it is that you violated the laws. In the DMV hearing, like in civil court, the burden is “by a preponderance of the evidence.” This means that if the hearing officer finds the driver more likely than not violated California vehicle DUI laws, then they can find against the driver.
In a criminal case, the burden of proof is higher. The burden of proof in a criminal DUI case is beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury has even some amount of reasonable doubt, then they should find the defendant not guilty.
For example, if a DMV hearing officer is 51% sure the driver violated California DUI laws, they can find against the driver and suspend their license. If a juror is 75% sure the driver violates criminal laws but 25% unsure, then the juror should find the defendant not guilty. If you have any questions about the burden of proof in a California drunk driving case, talk to your East Bay DUI defense attorney.
Call Your Oakland DUI Defense Lawyer Within 10 Days or Lose Your License
Lynn Gorelick has more than 39 years of East Bay DUI defense experience and understands the penalties involved with California DUI charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success to keep her clients out of jail. If you are facing drunk driving charges anywhere in Oakland, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County, contact Lynn Gorelick.