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New Law in California Dui Defense


A new case came down that is very significant in California DUI casesDUI Defense.  The case is called CDLA vs. DMV and it has to do with the patent unfairness that has existed in DUI hearings for many years.  By way of background, when we are arrested for DUI in California and our blood alcohol was .08 % by volume or higher, the arrest also triggers an Administrative action by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.  The arrest actually causes an automatic suspension of the driving privilege.  That’s right, an automatic suspension.  Sounds disgusting already, doesn’t it?  If you don’t request a hearing to prevent the automatic suspension within 10 days, you lose. If you do request a hearing, you usually still lose.

This hearing, referred to as an Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing, occurs when the DMV gets notified of the DUI arrest.  Sure, you have to go to court, but you also have to deal with Captain Kangaroo.  The DUI’s kangaroo court involves a dmv employee called a “hearing officer” conducting a “hearing” based upon the DUI arrest.  The hearing officer (HO), who is neither a lawyer nor a judge, acts as both prosecutor and judge in the hearing.  The HO presents evidence, makes legal ruling and ultimately decides the outcome of the case…And they do it all with ZERO legal training.

The new case that came down found the DMV hearing process to be illegal.  The appellate court found that it violated Due Process in two different ways.  First the court said the DMV could not act as both prosecutor and judge.  Also, the court found that DMV office managers were exerting too much authority on their own HO’s.  What would happen is in the rare case where we actually won a hearing, the DMV office manager would order the HO to change the outcome of the case.  Did I mention the managers had no more legal training the HO’s themselves?

What’s changed?

For a few weeks the DMV did nothing as they seemed to be thinking about how to handle the new court decision.  Then, without explanation they started having two hearing officers, from different offices convene the hearings.  One would act as prosecutor and one as judge.  It seems that this was too difficult for the DMV to handle, so shortly after they started doing it, they stopped.

Now we are getting calls from single hearing officers to do hearings.  They claim they were not “advocates” for the DMV side, but are only acting as the “trier of fact”, or the judge.  When the hearings start, things seem back to the old standard.  The HO still presents their evidence, they still overrule any legal objections we make (not that they even understand them) and then make findings at the end of the hearings.

We have no firsthand knowledge about the issue of pressure on the hearing officers by their managers.  I know I just won a DUI refusal last week.  I haven’t won a refusal in a long time.  Maybe it’s a good sign, but I think we still have a lot of work to do.

I’ve always said that we can’t win if we don’t fight.  If you lawyer says, “don’t even bother with the DMV hearing”, find a new lawyer.  DMV hearings can be very helpful discovery tools for the defense.  We often catch cops off guard.  When they come to testify, they are not prepared.  They are not being coached by prosecutors and they there is trained lawyer asking them questions the questions on the other side.  We also have civil subpoena powers from the DMV hearing.  Never look a gift horse in the mouth.  One attorney I know if Ventura subpoenas documents in every single DMV hearing he does!

If you’ve been arrested or cited for DUI in Los Angeles or Ventura County, I would be happy to speak to you about how I can help. Don’t believe everything you read from vulture lawyers who send you pretty fliers and claim they can help.  Don’t call a lawyer who you heard advertise on the radio.  Call a real lawyer who gets clients the old fashioned way, by referral.  Over 90 percent of my clients are referred.  I don’t advertise.  I don’t need to.

Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or email me: