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IE Criminal Defense: The California DMV’s current DUI procedure may be unconstitutional

By: Get News
A recent ruling found the California Department of Motor Vehicle’s (DMV) use of one of its officers to act as investigator, prosecutor, and judge in a DMV administrative hearing violates drivers’ constitutional rights.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is one of the most common offenses the attorneys at Inland Empire (IE) Criminal Defense see. Upon being arrested, drivers should act quickly to secure an attorney who can advise and represent them in their upcoming criminal case. What drivers may not know is that they also have the right to an administrative hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) relating to the suspension of their driver’s license. It is this hearing that has been deemed unconstitutional. 

The DUI law in California orders those convicted of a first-offense DUI to be sentenced to up to six months in jail and have their license suspended for six months. A suspended license is a discretionary action ordered by the DMV. Upon being charged with a DUI, drivers can contact the DMV within 10 days of their arrest and schedule an administrative hearing. This hearing allows them to review and challenge evidence supporting discretionary action against their driving privileges. 

An administrative DMV hearing is separate from a criminal case. In these hearings, the DMV appoints a hearing officer to preside over the matter. This officer is typically a police officer who investigates the case and advocates for license suspension. However, it was recently ruled that this process may violate drivers’ constitutional rights.

“Our legal system advocates for unbiased hearings,” said Adam Jackson, owner of IE Criminal Defense. “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law. However, one could argue that said hearing cannot be so unbiased if the person deciding whether you have broken the law is simultaneously advocating for the police and (acting as) the judge at the same time.”

The California Association of DUI Lawyers (CADL) has argued that this system violates the driver’s constitutional right to a fair and impartial hearing, and the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles recently agreed.


Drivers’ rights are reinstated — for now

California law prohibits all state agencies from assigning their own employees to preside over a hearing — except the DMV. And while the DMV has contended there’s no evidence of bias by its hearing officers, the appeals court ruled that the officer’s dual roles favor the DMV. 

Moving forward, the DMV will select a hearing officer from one office to act as a judge. Then, another officer — known as a Trier of Fact — will be appointed from another office to present evidence. Jackson concedes this is better than the previous system but says this won’t necessarily fix the problem.

“Think of it like working with a purse snatcher, where you are working with them to recover the purse that they stole,” he said. “It’s just now, you have a second purse snatcher who has no reason not to help his like-minded friend.”

The DMV is expected to appeal the ruling to the California State Supreme Court. 



According to the most recent data available, more than 127,000 DUI arrests were made in California in 2018. Therefore, drivers facing this charge must hire a knowledgeable DUI lawyer to advise them of their rights and handle their case. IE Criminal Defense will help drivers act quickly to secure a fair administrative DMV hearing that upholds their constitutional rights.

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Company Name: IE Criminal Defense
Contact Person: Yony Morales
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Phone: 1 (909) 939 7126
Address:337 N Vineyard Ave, Suite 400
City: Ontario
State: CA 91764
Country: United States

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