What to Expect at a DMV Hearing
If you have been involved in an arrest for DUI in Florida, you may face a lengthy driver’s license suspension. It is commonly known that a DUI may result in criminal charges, but the associated DMV hearing may not be fully understood. Following a DUI arrest, a driver only has 10 days to apply for a DMV administrative review hearing.
A DMV hearing is an administrative hearing, separate from your criminal case. The hearing allows alleged DUI offenders to request invalidation of the automatic administrative suspension. If you do not schedule or attend the hearing, your license will be suspended, typically, for an extended period of time. As a result, you may not be able to drive to and from work, or meet other responsibilities.
Florida DMV Hearings
The Florida laws pertaining to administrative suspensions in sections 322.2615 and 322.64 of the Florida Statutes. Upon the request of the driver, the (FLHSMV,) is authorized to hold informal and formal reviews. The reviews determine whether administrative driver’s license suspensions should be sustained, amended, or invalidated. The reviews pertain only to the license suspension, not to the DUI charge.
What Is the Difference Between an Informal or Formal Hearing?
When you request your DMV hearing, you may choose a formal or informal review.
An informal hearing is held by a hearing officer, who will review all materials presented by the law enforcement officers and the offender. No additional evidence or testimony will be considered and the arresting officer is not required to be present. After review, the department will notify the driver of the decision within 21 days of the expiration of the offender’s temporary license.
While a formal hearing is also held by a hearing officer, it differs because the driver may present evidence and witness testimony in their defense. Additionally, the driver is permitted to have attorney representation during the hearing. The DMV hearing allows you to challenge the legality of the suspension of your driver’s license. The driver who requested the hearing is required to be present, otherwise, they waive their right to a hearing. If you waive your right to a hearing, your license will automatically be suspended. If the arresting officer or Breathalyzer administrator does not attend the hearing, the suspension may be invalidated and dropped from your record.
Other factors may result in the invalidation of your suspension, including:
- An initial stop that was not legally valid;
- An arresting officer did not attest to their statement of probable cause;
- A lack of evidence that the person was driving or in physical control of the vehicle;
- Invalid Breathalyzer or blood tests;
- Failure of an officer to give implied consent warnings;
- The driver failed to refuse the tests;
- An officer’s refusal affidavit was not attested to;
- One of the sobriety tests indicated BAC under .08 (even if the other was over 0.08);
- Lack of probable cause that the driver was under the age of 21 (for a zero-tolerance suspension); and
- Failure to provide the DUI packet to the DMV Bureau of Administrative Reviews before the hearing.
Even if the driver is unsuccessful at a formal hearing, it may provide valuable information for later arguing against your DUI charge. It is an opportunity for a defense attorney to question the witnesses under oath and gather evidence long before the criminal trial begins.
In some cases, it is especially important to request a formal review hearing. For example, if you have a prior conviction or administrative suspension for DUI, or if you had one breath test reading over 0.08 and one below 0.08 (because the suspension must then be invalidated).
What Happens in a DMV Hearing?
When you are arrested for DUI, the hearing officer will take your driver’s license and issue you a temporary permit. The permit operates as a notice of the administrative suspension. Once your license has been suspended, the DHSMV hearing process begins. Law enforcement officers notify the DHSMV of the arrest and your temporary permit.
You must make a demand for a formal hearing within 10 days after the arrest (or notice of the administrative suspension). The hearing officer will then send you a notice of the time and place of the hearing along with a form for the driver’s pre-hearing statement.
Regardless of whether you decide to have a formal or an informal hearing, the DMV hearing is part of the arrest process. The arresting officer must be present. The hearing officer will consider disputed legal issues, for example:
- Whether the arresting officer had probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Whether the arrest was lawful
- Whether your BAC was 0.08 percent or higher
As mentioned, at a formal hearing, witnesses, testimony, and evidence are permitted. Additionally, your attorney can provide evidence, challenge the evidence presented by the arresting officer, and cross-examine witnesses. For example, your attorney may argue that the arresting officer lacked probable cause to stop you or that the Breathalyzer was incorrectly administered.
Be prepared for the DMV hearing officer to want to hear from you. Some questions commonly asked include:
- Was your BAC 0.08 percent or higher?
- Did you refuse to take a breath, blood, or urine test after the arrest?
- Did the officer warn you that test refusal would mean license suspension?
The purpose of the hearing is to determine if your arrest was lawful. While the DHMSV may decide your license should not be suspended after the hearing, the criminal court will have the ultimate say. If convicted of a DUI, a judge may feel license suspension is an appropriate punishment. Although there is some overlap, the two agencies act independently from one another.
How Will an Attorney Help With This Process?
A driver’s license suspension can be a serious hardship for you and your family. If you are a University of Florida student charged with DUI, you may also face suspension or expulsion from school. An attorney can schedule your DMV hearing, ensuring you don’t miss critical deadlines. Getting your attorney involved early in the process will be helpful when fighting your DUI charge. Even if you cannot avoid a suspension, your attorney may be able to obtain a shorter suspension, or less severe penalties. For example, driver education classes or community service.
You must request your hearing in an appropriate and timely manner. Therefore, you should consult an experienced Florida DMV hearing attorney right away.