As a Los Angeles DUI lawyer, I get asked a lot of questions about DMV hearings. I will attempt to answer those questions here.
Will I lose my license following a DUI?
Under California law, someone arrested for DUI will automatically lose their license effective 30 days following the arrest if they do not have their lawyer contact the DMV to request a hearing.
Where are DMV hearings held?
A DMV hearing is conducted at a local driver safety office. The location for the DMV hearing is based on what law enforcement agency the officers involved in the arrest work for. For example, a DUI arrest made by Hermosa Beach Police Department officers would likely be conducted at the El Segundo DSO.
A driver safety office is not like a regular DMV office. DSO’s are staffed with full-time DMV personnel who adminster the hearings. There is usually a small waiting room for people showing up for their hearings, and offices in the back where the hearings take place.
Who attends a DMV hearing?
The hearing is run by a DMV Hearing Officer (HO) who acts as judge, jury, expert and sometimes prosecutor. The driver can attend the hearing (although I usually advise clients not to attend because they may be asked questions that can be used against them in court.) An attorney for the driver as well as an expert witness working on behalf of the driver often attend DMV hearings. Sometimes the police officer who arrested the driver is called before the hearing. Often, however, the HO simply reads from the officer’s report and makes their decisions based on that.
Are DMV hearings fair?
In a word no. The DMV has a mandate to remove DUI drivers from the road. They do this through a lower evidence standard than criminal cases. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. In a DMV hearing, the burden is lower, along the same level as a civil proceeding.
DMV hearings are difficult for people facing their first DUI. The more information you have before going forward with your case, the better off you will be.