What most people don't know is that a DUI actually results in two cases for the defendant: a license suspension case and the criminal court case.

The Department of Licensing (DoL) or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will seek to suspend your driver’s license because you were arrested for DUI. There does not need to be a conviction. This is a separate procedure from court proceedings and there does not even need to be criminal charges. You must request a DoL/DMV hearing or have your automatic license suspension remain even if your criminal case is dropped. Usually the DoL/DMV serves notice in writing of its intention to suspend, revoke, or deny your license. The service of notice is normally done by a separate letter issued to you after your arrest but do not wait for this letter! If you are arrested for DUI, Physical Control, Or Minor DUI you must take immediate action and seek experienced DUI counsel as time is precious at this stage.

Right to request a hearing

The DoL/DMV will also serve you notice in writing your right to a hearing, specifying the steps you must take to obtain a hearing. This is normally achieved by the arresting officer giving you a hearing request form which is time sensitive. Depending on which state you’re in, you typically only have 10-20 days to request a hearing in a timely manner. Seeking experienced DUI counsel is important because the manner in which the hearing is requested can make the difference between no loss of your license and a suspension or revocation. Your license usually remains valid for 30-60 days after arrest. If a hearing is properly requested your license will remain valid until the hearing is actually held and you are notified of the hearing result by mail.

DoL/DMV hearing procedure

Once the hearing is requested a date, time, and hearing officer will be assigned. On the assigned date the hearing officer will conduct the hearing, may issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents, and shall administer oaths to witnesses. The report of the law enforcement officer and any other evidence accompanying the report shall be admissible without any other showing required. You have the right to have counsel, question witnesses, present evidence, and testify. This does not mean that the DoL/DMV needs any proof like in court; instead, it is a determination of whether the officer had enough information to think you were above a threshold limit. At the end of the hearing, the hearing examiner will likely take the case under advisement and then issue a ruling by mail. This ruling may come as soon as 2 weeks, or it can take over a year from the date to the hearing. The ruling will either uphold the suspension or revocation (you lose), or it will rescind the proposed suspension or revocation (you win).

DoL/DMV penalties

If you refuse to take an alcohol test, your driver's license, permit, or privilege to drive will be revoked or denied for an average of one year. Your refusal to take the test may also be used in a criminal trial. If you submit to the test, your driver's license, permit, or privilege to drive will be suspended, revoked, or denied for a period of time (such as 90 days) if you are age twenty-one or over and the test indicates the alcohol concentration of the driver's breath or blood is 0.08 or more, or if the driver is under age twenty-one and the test indicates the alcohol concentration of your breath or blood is 0.02 or more. Therefore a first offense DUI arrest can garner a period of license suspension (like 90 days) if over 21 and provided a sample of .08 or more, and if you are under age 21 and provide a sample over a .02. If this is a second DUI arrest and you are within a certain timeframe (for example, 7-10 years) of your first DUI arrest then the DoL/DMV will revoke your license for even longer (such as 2 years). If you’re under 21 at the time of your second DUI arrest, then your license can remain suspended until you’re 21, which can be even longer than 2 years. If you are later convicted of DUI, Minor DUI, or Physical Control the court judge can order another suspension or revocation as punishment, but the DoL/DMV usually grants credit on a day-for-day basis for any portion of a suspension or revocation already served if the conviction is from the same incident. The mandatory penalties are usually set out by your state’s law, and therefore there is no lesser suspension/revocation time.