FAQs About The Administrative Hearing

Why Does The Driver’s License Bureau Offer The Right To An Administrative Hearing?

A driver’s license is a driving privilege in Utah. It’s not a fundamental right but it’s a privilege and it’s like a property interest. It’s very important to people in their lives that they have the license because they have to get to work and they have to get their kids to school and to the doctor and things like that.

The driver’s license is kind of a property interest and if the state’s going to take that away from you for up to 3 years in some cases, then you’re entitled to due process. When the hearing officer is reading the opening statement for the driver’s license hearing, he’ll say that they are going to comply with the fundamental rights of due process.

That is the opportunity to be heard and the opportunity to present evidence and prepare a defense in order to defend yourself from having to lose that property interest. That’s the purpose of the hearing. The driver can be entitled to due process before the property interest is taken away from him.

How Is The Administrative Hearing Different From The Criminal DUI Court Proceeding?

In the administrative hearing, the only thing they are focusing on is whether the license is going to be suspended. The court is focused on lots of other things.

First of all, they are going to see whether the driver is guilty or not, and then they are going to be talking about specific sanctions; if they are found guilty, they are going to be talking about jail time or community service and treatment, and restitution, if any.

They are dealing with a whole host of issues at the courthouse whereas in the driver’s license division, the only issue is ‘are we going to suspend or not?’ Part of the problem with it is in court, they could possibly take away your liberty and your freedom, that’s why they have the highest burden in the legal system. The prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was in violation of the DUI laws. However, it’s almost the opposite at the driver’s license hearing.

At the driver’s license hearing, the legal burden was if the officer was reasonable in his belief that the driver was in violation of the DUI laws. That’s almost the lowest burden in the legal system.

Another difference is the person who’s making the decision. At the driver’s license division, it’s an employee of the driver’s license division, they are not law trained, they are not judges; they are just people who’ve applied for the position, have a little bit of training and maybe started as a clerk at the driver’s license division. In court, you have a judge who’s most likely a lawyer and has passed the bar and has practiced law. They follow the rules of evidence in court, whereas in the driver’s license division, they really don’t follow the rules of evidence. They’re trying to, but they don’t.

So, the big difference is between the administrative hearing of the driver’s license division and the court. However, the main things are the low burden, the untrained personnel who are making the decision and the fact that the rules of evidence don’t really apply.

If You Win Or Lose The DMV Hearing, Does That Affect The Criminal Side Of Your Case?

From a defense attorney perspective, yes, because usually the administrative hearing is conducted first. In a DUI, the hearing has to be held within 30 days of the citation. It’s usually the first hearing, where the attorney has an opportunity to cross-examine the officer, fill in the blanks that he may have left in the DUI report or the video, and ask him a bunch of different questions and he’s not represented by anyone.

In court, the officer would be represented by the prosecutor and he could make objections to the questions and say that the attorney’s questions aren’t relevant. At the administrative hearing, they’re just kind of there, so you get to ask him a lot of questions about why they made the stop, why they pulled the driver out of the car, why they conducted the DUI field sobriety tests and how they did it and all kinds of questions.

It’s kind of a fact-finding opportunity and then that information can be used to mount a defense in the court. The attorney can go to the prosecutor on a criminal case and say, “Look, I’ve questioned your officer already. He made some mistakes here, here, and here. Because of those mistakes, the driver’s license division did not suspend his license; they actually returned his license”. Therefore, winning the DMV hearing can have an impact on the criminal side of the case.

Since the DMV hearing is one of the more difficult hearings as far as things like the low burden, no rules of evidence, and you explain that to the prosecutor where he has the highest burden beyond a reasonable doubt. A lot of times, when you take that information that you get from the DMV hearing, it can have a big influence on the criminal side of the case.

If you need answers to more Questions About The Administrative Hearing In Utah, call the law office of Attorney Matthew Nebeker for a free initial consultation at (801) 309-6966 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.

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