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DMV Administrative Hearing for DUI

DMV Hearing vs. Court Hearing

A DMV hearing and a court hearing after you have been arrested for a DUI are not the same thing. The DMV hearing is an administrative proceeding that deals with a person’s driving privilege while the court hearing determines whether or not there is a criminal liability after a DUI arrest. (A DUI in California is a criminal offense and not a traffic offense.)

In California, the DMV may suspend the driver’s license of a person arrested for a DUI. If the arrest was for a DUI with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher, license suspension is automatic. The DMV hearing provides the person arrested a chance to contest or challenge the suspension. On the other hand, the court hearing determines whether a person arrested for a DUI can be criminally charged and convicted for either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.

What is an admin per se hearing?

DMV hearings for DUI with BAC of 0.08% or higher are also called “admin per se hearings.” This is due to the fact that a charge for DUI with BAC of 0.08% or higher is otherwise called “DUI per se”. It is called “DUI per se” because the law presumes that you were driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, above the legal limit, and it falls on to you to prove otherwise.

How is a DMV hearing initiated and conducted?

When a person is arrested for a DUI, the arresting officer seizes the driver’s license and issues a ticket. In addition, the arresting officer will also provide a “Notice of Suspension” that provides a number to call where you can request a hearing.

You must request a hearing with the DMV within 10 days after the arrest. [1] If you do not make a request within those 10 days after the arrest, the license suspension immediately takes effect after that period. If you have hired an attorney, the attorney can contact the DMV to make the hearing request.

The hearings are recorded and are conducted either by telephone or in-person. The hearing is held before a Driver Safety Hearing Officer from the DMV.[2]

Can you still drive after being arrested for a DUI?

You must first make a hearing request to DMV as mentioned previously. Once the request has been made, the DMV will issue a 30-day temporary driver’s license. If your hearing is not conducted within 30 days, the DMV will grant you a “Stay of Suspension” and you will be able to continue driving using the temporary driver’s license until the hearing is actually conducted or the DMV decides on the suspension.

In addition to the issuance of a temporary driver’s license, you may also keep driving if you opt to have an Ignition Interlock Device or IDD installed in your vehicle. An IDD is a breathalyzer installed inside your vehicle. You need to provide a clean breath sample to the IID for you to be able to operate your vehicle. Without a clean breath sample, the IID will prevent the engine from starting.

What happens during the DMV Hearing?

Similar to a court hearing, the DMV and the arrested driver has to opportunity to show evidence to prove their case. The arrested driver has the right to be represented by an attorney during a DMV hearing. If the Driver Safety Hearing Officer rules in favor of the arrested driver, the license suspension is set aside. If Driver Safety Hearing Officer rules against the driver, they will issue the period of suspension.

How long is the suspension and how can you get your license back?

Once your license has been suspended, you will only get it back after the suspension period. A suspension can last between 4 months (for first time DUI conviction) up to 1 year (for a second or more DUI convictions).

Take note that these periods imposed by the DMV are issued on top of other penalties that a court may impose after you have been convicted for a DUI.

How does a court decision affect the decision in a DMV Hearing?

In the event that the DMV decides to suspend your license and subsequently, the court acquits or finds you not guilty of a DUI, you will have to submit the court decision to the DMV. The DMV will then reverse its decision if it determines that the court decision does, in fact, equal an acquittal.[3]

In the event that the court reduces the DUI charge to a reckless driving, it will not affect the suspension decided by the DMV. A reduction of a DUI charge to reckless driving in criminal court is separate and/or independent from the DMV hearing.[4]

No Judgment, Only Professionalism

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, it is all-important to hire an experienced, aggressive, and seasoned private West Covina defense lawyer to fight your case. We always make our clients feel right at home and we encourage you to take comfort in the fact that you have a dedicated advocate on your side at Coimbra Law Firm, APC. Our highly-experienced lawyers at Coimbra Law Firm, APC will help ensure that your Constitutional rights are protected. Each of our clients will receive personalized attention, complete discretion, and trained staff working to provide the best legal assistance available.

Our only job is to defend you with the maximum competence, diligence, and zealousness. Do not hesitate to contact us and call (626) 827-7222 for the representation you need.


[1] Please see California DMV website at https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/driver-education-and-safety/dmv-safety-guidelines-actions/administrative-hearings/

[2] Id.

[3] Please see California DMV website at https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/driver-education-and-safety/dmv-safety-guidelines-actions/driving-under-the-influence/

[4] Id.

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