(Hint: Hire a DUI Lawyer!)
Ten days: it may not seem like a very long amount of time, and it isn’t. However, if you’ve been charged with a DUI and have had your license suspended, that’s how long you have to request the most important hearing of your case: the DMV hearing. This hearing represents your best chance of having your license reinstated and the suspension removed from your driving record. An experienced DUI lawyer can help.
What Is This Hearing?
According to Florida law, anyone who police arrest on suspicion of DUI will immediately have his or her driver’s license suspended for ten days. During the ten days, the individual has three options:
- Do nothing, at which point the suspension will extend to 90 days.
- Plead guilty and file for a hardship license that will allow the driver to drive only to school, work, or other necessary functions.
- Request an administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to contest the suspension.
An individual must request a formal or informal hearing in writing and mail the request within ten days of the initial suspension. The request must include the name, address, driver’s license number, and date of birth of the driver, as well as the date of the suspension and the county in which the suspension took place.
What Is the Difference Between a Formal and Informal Hearing?
There are two types of administrative, non-criminal hearings that individuals arrested for DUI can request following the temporary 10-day suspension of their license:
- An informal review hearing: This hearing involves only a review of the materials submitted by the law enforcement officer and the driver; it does not involve testimony from witnesses. The hearing officer issues a determination as to whether the preponderance of evidence supports the law enforcement officer’s actions—the arrest of the driver and suspension of his or her license. The hearing officer may either uphold or disqualify the suspension.
- A formal review hearing: If you request a formal review hearing, you will be issued an extended temporary license for up to 45 days for the sake of scheduling, preparing for, and attending the hearing. Upon receipt of the written request for a formal hearing, the Florida DMV will schedule the hearing to take place within 30 days from the date of your request. Your attorney is permitted to present evidence and witnesses on your behalf. If you have an attorney representing you, then you are not required to attend the hearing personally. If you are not represented by an attorney at your formal hearing, you must be present. If you fail to show up for the scheduled hearing, you waive your right to the formal hearing process and an informal hearing may be conducted instead.
What Other Reasons Would I Need a DMV Hearing?
The DMV hearing process may also be used for the following situations:
- You have entered a guilty plea or have already lost your license due to a DUI conviction, and you wish to apply for a hardship license.
- You refused a breath analyzer test, which resulted in the suspension of your license for up to one year for the first offense.
How Do I Win My DMV Hearing?
When an individual has had his or her license suspended for DUI, there are no downsides to requesting a hearing. If you do nothing, you face a 30 to 90-day hard suspension of your license, which will prevent you from driving anywhere until the suspension is lifted. If you plead guilty, you also face an extended suspension as well as damage to your driving record and a criminal conviction that appears on public records and may impact your ability to get housing, employment, or higher education opportunities in the future.
Even if the hearing officer’s decision doesn’t go your way, you are no worse for having requested the hearing, as the decision cannot be used against you in your criminal DUI proceedings. Hiring an attorney as soon as you receive a 10-day suspension of your license is the best opportunity to win the hearing and regain your license. An experienced DUI attorney can provide you with the following services:
- Answers to your legal questions and guidance as to the pros and cons of the legal decisions that must be made in your case.
- Making the written request for the hearing on your behalf, ensuring that all of the necessary information is provided and the request is submitted within the 10-day deadline.
- Analyzing the facts of your case to determine if the arresting officer followed proper protocol during the stop and when conducting the field sobriety test, the breath analyzer test, and the arrest.
- Ensuring that your rights were upheld during the process of your arrest.
- Introducing evidence that reveals a medical or neurological condition that may have produced inaccurate results for your field sobriety test.
- Providing evidence to support the notion that the breath analyzer test that was provided may have been inaccurate due to issues with the machine used for the testing itself or for a physical reason, such as recently consuming an alcoholic drink that could have caused the breath alcohol content to measure higher than what it really was. Remember, if your breath analyzer test registered a breath alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, you face a suspension of your license for up to six months, so it is important to challenge those results or the procedure used to obtain the results, if possible.
- Providing evidence for the hearing officer’s consideration in an informal review.
- Attending a formal review hearing on your behalf if you are unable to attend and represent your interests.
- Introducing and presenting evidence and questioning witnesses at a formal review.
- Viewing the evidence against you that may also be presented in your criminal trial and developing appropriate defenses to that evidence.
- Helping you to apply for a hardship license and representing you at the review.
In short, your most effective weapon in fighting against an automatic suspension of your driver’s license and preserving your driving record is an experienced DUI attorney. However, you only have ten days to act, so don’t waste any time in finding a DUI lawyer you trust.