Many drivers arrested for a DUI in DC do not realize that there are two cases triggered by the event. There is one handled in a court of law and the other with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Motorists arrested in DC for drunk driving only have a short period of time to request a hearing with the DMV, at the risk of having an automatic suspension of their licenses.
Also known as APS hearings, a DMV administrative proceeding is different from a typical criminal proceeding in court. One unique characteristic is that it is presided over by one person who acts as both a judge and prosecutor, meaning the same person who accuses the driver of being drunk is the same one who will decide what will happen to his license at the end of the hearing. The hearing officer who acts in this position is neither an attorney nor a judge but an employee of the DMV.
Though such a person does not have the legal training needed to conduct such a procedure, courts regularly uphold the DMV’s authority in doing so.
DMV hearings vary from DUI criminal trials in a number of ways. They are based on police reports and chemical tests rather than live witnesses as with standard trials. Evidence introduced in DMV hearings are hearsay, which is normally inadmissible, which is what makes it so important to bring a knowledgeable attorney. The right attorney will challenge the evidence brought to the table. If the evidence cannot be introduced, there is no case against the motorist.
Several factors decide how the hearing unfolds, such as whether the driver was under the age of 21; there are additional problems here when this happens. The process for a DMV hearing with a motorist who is under the age of 21 is similar to those with older drivers – though having any amount of alcohol in the system is cause for suspension.
According to the law, an accused motorist can request the hearing officer be disqualified from the procedure if it is clear they will not receive an impartial hearing, though this needs to be done before the hearing and will be decided by another employee at the DMV.
The hearing is tape-recorded and the defense can make appeals at any time. The actual process is straightforward as the DMV only needs to consider three things. They need to consider that the police had good reason to believe there was a crime being committed, that the arrest was lawful, and that there was a proven chemical test to show the motorist’s blood alcohol content was .08 percent or higher.
The actual issues the hearing will cover will depend on whether the driver submitted to the test or refused to take it. Drivers believe that refusing to take the test can avoid punishment, but the truth is this can actually harm them by getting a longer license suspension. Refusal to take the test can be considered evidence of guilt when it comes to the criminal trial.
There are many complexities to DUI charges. Motorists can lose their license due to a medical issue, not just a DUI. The exact reasons behind the medical suspension requirement differ, as they can include a number of mental health conditions or physical health problems like physical injury, addiction, epilepsy or other conditions. In addition, some motorists become an intended target to have their license suspended for medical reasons due to their age, though the DMV is required to conduct an APS hearing prior to suspending a license. Similar to a DUI hearing, it is possible to challenge this action aggressively on behalf of an accused motorist.
Though the odds seem to be against a motorist accused of a DUI in Washington, D.C., it is possible to win this procedure and secure your license. A DC DMV attorney has the necessary experience to aggressively fight for your license and defend your name in a DMV hearing.
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