DMV vs. Court

In every DUI case in California, the driver faces penalties from the DMV and from the criminal courts. It is important to understand the differences between the DMV and the courts so that a driver facing a DUI case know what to expect.

DMV: what happens in DUI cases in California during the “APS” Process

The DMV handles DUI cases under its “APS” (administrative per se) process. Because the process is administrative in nature, and not involving a court of law, there are less rights and protections that drivers have:

  • No right to a jury
  • Limited rights/protections to screen evidence (watered down evidentiary rules of admissibility/foundation/hearsay
  • Lower standard of proof for the DMV to take license action than criminal court
  • A hearing administered by a “DMV Hearing Officer,” who acts as prosecutor, expert witness, judge, jury and executioner

The DMV process starts the moment the driver is first stopped by law enforcement. If the officers (police, highway patrol, etc.) suspect the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will use their authority to require the driver to submit a blood or breath sample. Under California’s implied consent law, submitting a chemical sample to law enforcement is mandatory, and failing to do so can result in a severe license restriction (see information on DUI Refusal cases).
If the driver is arrested for DUI and submits a chemical sample, they are often brought to a holding facility where they are kept until released. Upon release, they are given a pink “temporary license” that includes instructions on how to request a DMV hearing.

What you can do about a DMV heaing in a DUI case:

The California DMV has a mandate to suspend the driving privileges of drivers who are involved in DUI cases and strives to remove these people from California’s roads.   What this means for drivers is this: The DMV is not fair, they  are harsh and they do everything in their power to suspend the driving privileges of DUI drivers.   Even though the odds are stacked against a driver in a DMV APS hearing, there are things that people can do:

  • Talk to a lawyer who is familiar with DMV APS hearings
  • Make sure to request an APS hearing within 10 days of your arrest (or better yet, have a lawyer schedule the hearing for you)
  • Understand the limitations that an APS hearing has and that it is not equivalent to a court hearing or court process

Criminal Court Process: California DUI cases when they go to court.

The criminal court process has more safeguards/rights/protections for drivers facing DUI charges. These include:

The criminal court process starts at the arraignment, where the driver is advised that there is a case against them.   The arraignment is a very quick proceeding, that can be handled by an attorney without the need for the driver to be present (California Penal Code 977).

In criminal court, the roles of the prosecutor, judge and jury are  defined and separated (as opposed to DMV hearings where the DMV Hearing Officer handles each of these roles).    The evidence has to meet basic admissibility requirements and the driver, through their attorney, has a better chance of attacking the case against them.

Posted in DMV Defenses, DMV Hearings, DUI Law.

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