The Road to Possible License Reinstatement
Having your driver’s license suspended after a drunk driving conviction is a serious roadblock in your life. In addition to restricting your freedom, it can also impact your employment. Depending upon where you live and work, public transportation may not be a viable option.
Florida law provides those convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) the right to request a review hearing. The purpose of a review hearing is to amend, invalidate, or sustain administrative suspensions or disqualifications. A review hearing is a complex process that is too important to go through alone. If you plan to request a review hearing, contact a Florida criminal defense lawyer to discuss your case.
Informal Review versus a Formal Review
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV) oversees the review process. A driver convicted of DUI must originate the request for a hearing. There are two different types of review hearings: informal and formal. No matter which type of hearing you decide upon, you must submit the required paperwork within 10 days of the date your license was suspended.
Informal review hearing – In an informal review hearing, the FHSMV relies solely upon the materials that the driver and the law enforcement officer each submit. The department designates a hearing officer and there are no witnesses called during the process.
If the department continues or moves the hearing to a later date, it may issue the driver a temporary driving permit for employment and business purposes only. The permit is only valid until the hearing date. A driver may or may not qualify for a temporary permit depending upon the severity of their charges.
Once the hearing officer reviews the submitted materials, they have the authority to make a ruling regarding the driver’s license status. They typically notify the driver of their decision by mail, which can take up to 21 days to arrive.
Formal review hearing – A request for a formal review hearing results in a more structured process. For one, the FHSMV must set a hearing date within 30 days of the request and notify the applicant of the date, time, and place of the hearing. If the department fails to schedule a hearing within the required 30 days, the suspension becomes invalid.
A hearing officer has the authority to administer oaths, notify witnesses, and take testimony. The hearing officer also issues the final ruling. The FHSMV must notify the driver of the hearing officer’s decision about whether there is sufficient cause for sustaining, amending, or invalidating the suspension. The driver must receive the notification within seven business days of the formal hearing.
Types of Sufficient Cause
FHSMV review hearings require that the parties provide evidence about whether the arresting officer had sufficient cause arrest you in the first place, which can make—or break—the outcome. The hearing officer carefully reviews the submitted materials and witness testimony to determine such factors as:
- If the license was suspended due to the driver’s refusal to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test.
- Whether the person whose license was suspended was told that if they refuse to submit to testing, their privilege to operate a motor vehicle would be suspended for a period of one year. In the case of previous refusals, the officer must tell the driver about a possible suspension of 18 months.
- Whether the law enforcement officer had probable cause to believe that the person whose license was suspended was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
It is the driver’s right to subpoena the arresting officer and/or the person who administered or analyzed their test. Should either party fail to appear, the suspension is automatically determined invalid.
Navigating an FHSMV Review Hearing
When requesting a review hearing, it is best to select the formal review option. This type of hearing allows for a more thorough review of the facts and allows the driver to present a strong defense. Issuing subpoenas and calling witnesses can greatly impact the hearing outcome and whether the hearing officer invalidates the suspension.
Having your driver’s license suspended is stressful, especially if you feel the suspension was without sufficient cause. An FHSMV review hearing is a departmental hearing, meaning that it is not a court hearing with a judge. Because of this, a public defender is not appointed to represent the driver at the hearing.
While legal representation isn’t required for a review hearing, it is a smart idea. The process for getting a suspension invalidated or amended is too important to navigate alone. The matter is serious at all levels of charges, from a first-time DUI to an involuntary manslaughter charge. For drivers with a CDL, license suspension can affect their ability to provide for their families.
The Khonsari Law Group: Your Florida Criminal Defense Team
At the Khonsari Law Group, our legal team understands the intricate Florida DUI laws and the complex FHSMV review hearing process. If you hire us to defend you, we work hard to clear your name and to do everything within our power to remove the DUI from your record from the time of your arrest until the time of your review hearing.
Public defenders manage large caseloads and have little time to provide you the individual attention your case deserves. If you’ve been arrested for DUI in the St. Petersburg area, call (727) 269-5300 or contact us online to schedule a free evaluation of your case.
A DUI conviction not only disrupts your ability to drive, but it can also lead to a criminal record. Investing in the professional services of a highly skilled criminal defense attorney is your best option for invalidating your suspension and possibly clearing your record. While each case is different, you deserve to have the support you need to defend your right to a fair FHSMV review hearing.
Don’t delay as there are specific time requirements for filing a hearing request. Be proactive in pursuing your right to a hearing. To ensure you are on the path to regain your driving privileges, reach out to the Khonsari Law Group today.