An arrest for DUI in California leads to a DMV hearing to determine whether the DMV will suspend a licensee's privilege to drive. Most DUI arrests result in a suspension. Following a suspension, the licensee has appeal rights. The Licensee may appeal to the DMV in Sacramento or file a Writ of Mandate with the Superior Court.
The first appeal right is to request that the DMV review the decision. The DMV has a department in Sacramento that reviews the decisions of DMV hearing officers statewide. The review must be requested within fourteen days of the suspension. There is a $120 administrative fee payable to the DMV for the review process. The local driver safety office will forward the documentary evidence and a copy of the recording of the hearing to Sacramento. This is not a hearing de novo, and no new evidence will be heard. The reviewing officer will simply review the evidence to determine whether the hearing officer was right or wrong to issue the suspension order. As this is the DMV reviewing its own decision, the chances of achieving a successful review are very low. It is almost a rubber stamping exercise. The other problem is that it can take four to eight weeks to get a decision and the suspension is not stayed in the meantime.
The second appeal right is to file a Writ of Mandate with the Superior Court requesting a judge to review the decision. This is not a request for a new hearing before a judge and a judge does not have the right to simply impose his or her decision on the DMV unless the DMV hearing officer did not follow the law or exceeded his or her discretion. The process may take months, but the judge has the power to issue a stay of suspension pending the outcome of the hearing. As the process involves an independent review, the success rate is higher, but judges are reluctant to overturn decisions, and may take into account public safety in upholding a suspension order. If the DMV hearing officer made a judgement call based on witness credibility, judges will normally not over-rule a decision.
If you are interested in receiving advice from a DMV lawyer in Los Angeles or Orange County experienced in DMV appeals, please call Gold & Witham at 562 938 7771.