Written by attorney Philip Laurence Wormdahl

DUI License Suspension Hearing in Utah 2012

For many first-offense DUI clients, the prospect of license suspension is the primary concern. They need to drive to work, take kids to day care, and run errands. Utah has no privilege for limited driving when a license is suspended for DUI, so a win at a DLD hearing is something to cherish. Driver's license hearings generally come in two basic flavors: (1) the "per se" suspension hearing, and (2) the "refusal" revocation hearing. (1) The "per se" hearing is what you get if your client was arrested for DUI and submitted to every chemical tests demanded by the officer. Typical suspension lengths for a "per se" hearing are 120 days for a first offense and 2 years for a subsequent offense. (2) The "refusal" hearing is what you get if your client was arrested for DUI and refused to take any of the chemical tests requested by the officer. Typical revocation length for a refusal is 18 months for a first offense and 36 months for a refusal with a prior administrative license action. DLD hearings are civil "administrative" hearings, not criminal proceedings, so they are conducted under very relaxed evidentiary rules. Also, there is no requirement that Hearing Officer's at DLD be law-trained. There are a few general points of attack for a successful DLD hearing. First, if the officer fails to appear for the hearing, either in person or telephonically, DLD will take "no action" on the license. If the officer appears and the hearing is conducted, be sure to focus on both "procedural issues" and the "merits" of the DUI arrest. Procedural arguments include things like the officer's failure to properly serve the driver with a copy of the citation and provide them notice of DLD's intent to suspend the license. Additionally, officers are required to read certain verbal "admonitions" to arrested drivers to warn them of the potential consequences of providing (or not providing) a chemical sample to the officer. Making sure that the officer properly relayed the contents of the required admonitions is a key step at a suspension hearing. The "bread and butter" for challenging the merits are the officer's administration of the field sobriety tests, observation of any driving pattern (or lack of), and the officer's observations of your client's physical signs of impairment. All of these facts are to be considered under a "totality of the circumstances" standard. Police Officers will typically only document the facts that point to the driver's impairment, not the facts that point to sobriety, so if the officer didn't make any note "slurred speech," make sure that you create a positive fact in the record regarding "un-slurred speech", rather than leaving speech out of the facts. Same goes for other common observations like "swaying," "red eyes," "fumbled documents," or "odor of alcohol." The priority at a DLD hearing is to protect the driver's license, but don't be afraid to use the hearing as an opportunity to build the record for subsequent motion practice in the court. The officer will be placed under oath and the audio from the hearing will be recorded by DLD. Tie the officer to his report, get him to clarify any ambiguous language and fill in any gaps. Sometimes a DUI case can be won by an officer's testimony at a DLD hearing. For concise information about suspension and revocation hearings check the Utah code, Title 53, Chapter 3 - The Uniform Driver's License Act. The main points of interest for a DUI lawyer are 53-3-220 through 53-3-231.

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