In San Diego County, or anywhere in California, if you are arrested for drunk driving, two processes automatically begin. One is the court process which is handled through the criminal court system and involves criminal charges and penalties. The other is the administrative process that is handled through the Department of Motor Vehicles, DMV, and involves the suspension of your driving privileges. [Note: Although the DMV has a separate action regarding your driving privilege, the court may also suspend your privilege to drive if you plead guilty or you are found guilty after a trial of driving under the influence or alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs.]
For many people, the worst and most inconvenient penalty in a DUI case is the inability to drive. And, if you do not challenge the suspension by requesting a hearing with the DMV within 10 of the arrest date, the DMV will automatically suspend your driver’s license for four months, or for one month with an additional five months with a restricted driver’s license, allowing you to drive to/from and during the course of your employment and to/from any DUI programs.
The DMV APS Hearings, as they are called, are not held to the court standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard applied in administrative proceedings is by the preponderance of the evidence. Because of this low burden on the DMV, and the fact that the hearing officer is in essence the prosecutor and the judge, and they do not even have to be lawyers, it is rare to get the DMV to set aside the suspension.
I was very sad to see recently a San Diego Hearing Officer, Alva Benavidez, plead guilty in federal court to conspiracy to accept brides. From what was reported, some criminal defense attorneys decided since they have an uphill battle to win these cases, they would resort to bribing the hearing officer. Continue reading →