Friday, February 17, 2012

How Does a DMV Hearing Work in a California DUI Case?

A DUI arrest inevitably leads to the imposition of a suspension of the driver's license in California.  In order to challenge any suspension the driver must request a DMV hearing to fight the action. In a DMV Administrative Per Se hearing, the DMV bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence certain facts, including that the driver was operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher. The DMV may satisfy its burden of proof by using the presumption of Evidence Code in section 664. Procedurally, it is a fairly simple matter for the DMV to introduce the necessary foundational evidence. Evidence Code section 664 creates a rebuttable presumption that blood-alcohol test results recorded on official forms were obtained by following the regulations and guidelines of title 17. The recorded test results are presumptively valid and the DMV is not required to present additional foundational evidence, such as testimony of the arresting officer. With this presumption, the officer’s sworn statement that the breath-testing device recorded a certain blood-alcohol level is sufficient to establish the foundation, even without testimony at the hearing establishing the reliability of the test.

According to Bruce Blythe, a Bakersfield DUI Attorney, Once the DMV establishes its prima facie case by presenting documents contemplated in the statutory scheme, the driver must produce affirmative evidence of the nonexistence of the presumed facts sufficient to shift the burden of proof back to the DMV. The licensee must show, “through cross-examination of the officer or by the introduction of affirmative evidence, that official standards were in any respect not observed. Once such showing has been made, the burden shifts to the DMV to prove that the test was reliable despite the violation.  The failure to shift the burden back to the DMV will invariably result in an upholding of the suspension.

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