​What to Expect at a DMV Hearing?

 

What to Expect at a DMV Hearing?

Getting called into a DMV hearing can be scary. You’re probably wondering what’s gonna happen, what you need to do to prepare, and if your license could get suspended. Don’t worry, I’ve been there. In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to handle a DMV hearing.

Why Was I Called to a Hearing?

There’s a few common reasons the DMV might call you in for a hearing:

  • You got a DUI or another alcohol-related offense. This is the most common reason. The cop probably took your license when they arrested you, and now the DMV wants to suspend it too.
  • You racked up too many points on your license from traffic tickets and violations. Usually if you get more than 3-4 in a year they’ll suspend your license.
  • You got in a crash and didn’t have insurance. This is called a “financial responsibility suspension.”
  • There was some other issue with your driving record, like too many accidents.

The DMV will send you a letter in the mail with the hearing date, time, and location. It’ll also say exactly why they want to suspend your license. Don’t ignore the letter! The hearing will happen whether you’re there or not.

Should I Get a Lawyer?

You’re allowed to bring a lawyer to the hearing if you want. An experienced DUI or traffic ticket lawyer can help make sure it goes as well as possible. They know all the rules and laws inside-out.

But hiring a lawyer can be expensive. Rates often start around $1000. If money’s tight or it’s a less serious case, you may want to go it alone.

If you do get a lawyer, find one who specializes in DMV hearings and license suspensions. Don’t just use your buddy whose a divorce attorney. This is a very specific area of law.

What Happens at the Hearing?

DMV hearings are pretty informal–it’s not like going to court. You’ll sit across a desk from a DMV hearing officer. They act kind of like a judge. The police officer who arrested you might be there too.

You’ll tell your side of the story and they’ll ask you some questions. The cop will say what happened too. Then the hearing officer decides if your license should be suspended based on the evidence.

There’s a couple things you should keep in mind:

  • Be honest! Getting caught in a lie will just make things worse.
  • Stay calm and respectful, even if you disagree. Yelling or getting angry won’t help.
  • Bring any evidence that supports your case – photos, receipts, witness statements, etc.
  • If you have a good driving record, emphasize that. It shows this was probably a one-time mistake.

How Long Will My License Be Suspended?

If your license does get suspended, the length depends on why and your record. Like:

  • DUI – First offense is typically 6 months. Second or third offense can be 1-3 years.
  • Too many points – Usually around 6 months or until the points drop off your record.
  • No insurance – Often 3 months to 1 year.

For DUIs and other alcohol offenses, you’ll also have to take DUI classes and get special insurance after the suspension. And your license might have restrictions, like you can only drive to work or school.

What if I Need to Drive for Work?

Losing your license can make it tough to keep your job if you drive for work – like a delivery driver or Uber. But you can apply for a restricted license that lets you drive for work purposes only.

Bring proof of your job and driving duties to the hearing. Explain how the suspension would cause an “undue hardship” since you need the car for work. The hearing officer can grant a restricted license if they agree suspending it fully would be too tough on you financially.

Can I Appeal if My License is Suspended?

If your license gets suspended at the DMV hearing, you do have the right to appeal. You’ll have to file paperwork and request another hearing in front of a judge instead of the DMV officer.

But appeals can drag on for months. Often it’s faster to just do the suspension and get it over with. By the time your appeal happens, your suspension might already be over anyway.

Talk to a lawyer if you want to appeal. They can give you a better idea of your chances and if it’s worth it. Expect to pay around $2000 or more for them to handle the whole appeal process for you.

Can I Drive Once My License is Suspended?

I know it’s tempting to drive even with a suspended license. But don’t! You can get in huge trouble if you’re caught driving on a suspended license:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Fines up to $1000
  • Mandatory 30 to 90 day license suspension, added to your current one
  • Your car can be impounded for 30 days

It’s just not worth the risk. Make arrangements for rides from family or friends. Or use public transportation if it’s available.

How Do I Get My License Back After the Suspension?

Once your suspension period ends, your license should be automatically reinstated. But call the DMV to check the exact date just in case. And confirm you completed all requirements, like DUI classes, SR-22 insurance, etc.

You’ll probably have to pay a license reinstatement fee too, usually around $100. The DMV will send you a notice when it’s time to pay it and get your license back.

And don’t forget to update your car insurance if it lapsed during the suspension. You need valid insurance to drive again.

How Can I Prevent This From Happening Again?

The best way to avoid another DMV hearing and license suspension is to be a safe, responsible driver going forward:

  • Obey all traffic laws
  • Don’t drink and drive
  • Pay attention and avoid distractions
  • Keep your car well-maintained
  • Drive defensively
  • Keep insurance on your vehicle

We all make mistakes. But learning from them and improving your driving can help get your license back on track.

The Bottom Line

DMV hearings can be intimidating but going in prepared helps a lot. Know why your license is being suspended, follow the tips above, and be honest and respectful. The suspension period will pass quicker than you think. And you’ll get back on the road before you know it.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions on DMV hearings! I’m happy to help.

Sources

Consequences of Refusing a DUI Test in California

California DMV Fast Facts on Suspensions

How to Fight a DMV License Suspension