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Winning the DMV Hearing

Avoiding a license suspension following an arrest for DUI is often the main priority for a client. Winning the DMV hearing is also the most difficult aspect of defending a drunk driving case. I always tell prospective clients that the odds of winning a DMV hearing are significantly against them, and only by retaining an experienced DUI defense attorney do they have any chance at all of prevailing.

The DMV cannot take into account a licensee's need to drive or personal circumstances at a DMV hearing, so the plea “how am I supposed to get to work and take my kids to school?” is met with deaf ears at a DMV hearing. The only way to prevail is to find a legal or technical problem with the evidence in the case. This does not mean that it is necessary to convince the hearing officer that the licensee is not guilty of DUI, as DMV hearings can be won even with high blood alcohol levels and strong evidence of guilt. Winning issues can be as simple as a paperwork problem or the arresting officer failing to sign his sworn statement.

Sometimes the arresting officer can be your best friend at the hearing. I recently won a DMV hearing where the officer testified inconsistently about the circumstances of an alleged refusal to submit to a blood test. The officer clearly could not remember the facts, and repeatedly contradicted herself on cross-examination. This was a case where I had told the client from the beginning to expect a one year suspension, so the set aside was a pleasant surprise.

Most hearings, however, result in a suspension and it then becomes a question of taking the steps necessary to reinstate driving privileges as quickly as possible. This normally involves enrollment in an alcohol education program and the filing of an SR22 proof of insurance with the DMV.