A DMV administrative hearing is a hearing held by a government agency to decide if a person should have a driver’s license. There are a few different reasons that a person might have a DMV hearing. The purpose of the hearing is either to see if the person did something to deserve a license revocation or to see if they’re fit to have their driver’s license reinstated.
The answer to what is a DMV administrative hearing is that it is not a hearing that’s held by a police department or a court. Instead, it comes from a state’s secretary of state, the motor vehicle division or the bureau of motor vehicles. A person can have their driver’s license administratively revoked even without committing a crime and even after they’ve served their entire sentence for a crime. A DMV hearing is not considered criminal.
How an administrative revocation occurs
There are generally three ways you might have an administrative license hearing. First, if you have multiple drunk driving offenses, the state might decide that you’re not fit to drive a motor vehicle. In most states, a second drunk driving conviction results in an administrative license revocation for a period of one to five years. If you have a third drunk driving conviction, you can lose your license for five years or indefinitely. After a period of time, you can request a hearing to show the state that you’re free of substance abuse issues and that you’re fit to drive a motor vehicle.
Second, if you refuse a breath test during a drunk driving investigation, you can face an administrative license revocation. You have a right to a hearing on the revocation. In most states, refusing a breath test can result in revocation of your license for one year. You must request your hearing within a very short time period after your arrest.
The third way you might have an administrative license hearing is if the state receives word that you may be unfit to operate a motor vehicle. This typically occurs for medical reasons. The state might call a hearing to talk about whether you should keep your driver’s license.
What happens at your hearing
The substance of what is a DMV administrative hearing depends on the purpose of the hearing. If your hearing is one to talk about reinstating your license after substance abuse-related convictions, your hearing focuses on your alcohol or drug use and your recovery. Expect to talk about the last time you used alcohol and whether you’re credible when you say that you’ve conquered any alcohol or substance abuse issues.
In most cases, the DMV hearing officer wants to know that you’ve been completely sober for at least a year. They want you to acknowledge that you have a substance abuse problem and that you can never be cured. They want to hear that you’re attending alcoholics anonymous or narcotics anonymous and that you’re working the steps. They might even expect you to document your sobriety with proof of attendance at meetings.
You should also be prepared to present evidence that you’re a positive member of the community. You should be able to talk about employment or making contributions to your family. Recommendation letters from family and friends can go long ways to convince the hearing officer that you’re rehabilitated. Employment can go long ways to make the argument that you need at least a restricted license in order to go to work.
If your hearing is one to appeal a breath test refusal, the scope of the hearing is much more limited. The administrative hearing officer wants to know whether or not you took the breath test. If you didn’t take the test, they want to know why not.
You can testify at your hearing. You can present evidence to the hearing officer just like you might if it was a court hearing. The hearing officer also listens to what the law enforcement officer has to say. At the end, the hearing officer gives a decision about whether your administrative revocation stands.
You’re allowed to bring an attorney with you to represent you in front of the hearing officer. This is important because they can help you present evidence and question witnesses. A local attorney has likely appeared at an administrative proceeding before, and they can offer a wealth of insight as to how to present your case in a way that is going to help you be successful.
Strict time limits
If you’re facing an administrative revocation because you refused a breath test, you have a very strict time limit to appeal the decision. You might think if you didn’t take the breath test, there’s nothing you can do to fight the revocation. This isn’t the case.
If you’re facing criminal charges at the same time, it’s always best to work with an attorney to ask for a revocation hearing. Often times, you can talk about the revocation as part of a plea deal in the criminal proceedings. A local attorney knows how to handle these negotiations and make all of this happen. It’s important to work with them quickly, however, because in some cases, you have only a handful of days from the date of your arrest to request an administrative hearing.
Other types of suspensions
When you’re convicted of a crime, you may receive a license suspension as a result. This is not an administrative hearing. Rather, it is an automatic penalty from the criminal conviction. For example, in most states, a conviction for a first drunk driving offense suspends your driver’s license for anywhere between thirty and ninety days.
This suspension is automatic. After your sentence, you receive a letter in the mail giving you the dates of your suspension, or it runs automatically from the date of your conviction. The judge can’t do anything to give you a break on this suspension. A state agency can’t do anything about this suspension, either.
You also might face an automatic license suspension because you accumulate too many points on your driving record. This can happen because of points that come with traffic infractions as well as criminal convictions. This type of suspension is also automatic. There is usually no administrative hearing available in this circumstance, but it’s important to check with a local attorney to check specific rules for your location.
Hardship appeals and court review
If you’ve lost your license because of a DMV hearing, you might be wondering if there’s anything you can do to get your license back. In some cases, the answer may be yes. Some states have a process that allows you to appeal the administrator’s decision to the local court. The court has the option to affirm the decision from the administrative hearing, grant you a full license or grant you a restricted license.
In most cases, the court reviews the transcript from the DMV hearing to evaluate whether the hearing officer made a mistake. They might also consider whether suspending your license creates an unreasonable hardship for you given the circumstances. If you’re pursuing a hardship appeal or a court review of your state administrative revocation, it’s important to work with a local attorney to present your case in the best light. There are often very technical things that the court wants to hear in order to have confidence granting you a license. A local attorney knows the courts, and they know what to put in the substance of your appeal in order to help it be successful.
A hearing officer can grant you a full license, a restricted license or no license at all. In many states, the officer has the option to give you a license with an ignition interlock device to verify your sobriety when you drive. An experienced local attorney can help you present your case to make sure that you’re as successful as possible on your first attempt to restore your license.