In Illinois, the DUI charge and the DMV hearing are two completely separate entities. Although the two can affect one another, winning the DMV hearing does not necessarily mean that you are going to be successful at court during the criminal case.
Philadelphia DMV Hearing Pursuant to a DUI
When you are arrested in the Philadelphia area for driving under the influence, the arresting officer will notify the DMV, who in turn begin the process of suspending your license. The DMV hearing is an administrative process, not a criminal one. The DMV is not going to wait until a decision has been make in your criminal case before they suspend your driving privileges. It is possible that you could lose your driver’s license after the DMV hearing and still be found not guilty when your case eventually goes to criminal court.
There will only be one opportunity to request the DMV hearing pursuant to the DUI court case, you must request that hearing no later than ten (10) days from the time of your DUI arrest. Once you request the DMV hearing, the suspension of your driving privileges is stayed until that hearing has concluded.
Depending on when the hearing was arbitrarily scheduled and if it was extended, you could be waiting weeks or months to get in front of the hearing officer. There have been times when the criminal case was actually heard before the hearing ever took place. This is why it is important to schedule that hearing because you get to keep your license while the court date approaches.
Winning the DMV Hearing
Many Philadelphia drivers assume that if they win the DMV hearing, it will help them to win the criminal case or at the least allow the judge to rule more favorably on the matter. When you win the DMV hearing, all that happens is your driving privileges are on hold pending the potential outcome of the criminal trial. Winning in front of the hearing officer has no influence on the process that takes place during the criminal case.
Drivers who are successful in the DMV hearing often wonder why their ruling does not positively impact their criminal case. The reason being is that the hearing officer at the DMV hearing isn’t looking to find anyone guilty or innocent. The DMV hearing officer is not in the position to make that determination if you were driving drunk or not. The only information that is relevant at the DMV hearing is whether there was reasonable evidence that might conclude you may have been intoxicated. The hearing officer can proactively suspend the driver’s license, but all the other matters are left to the criminal court system.
The Double Edge Sword of a DMV Hearing
Now because the criminal courts and the DMV hearing view the case differently, it presents sort of a double-edge sword for the defendant.
1. The hearing is easier to win, there will be no proving beyond a reasonable doubt you were not guilty. There is little burden of evidence, allowing your DUI attorney to get a favorable ruling by just presenting evidence that showed irregularities during the arrest, the blood alcohol reading was close to the legal limit, or the testing method is in question.
2. Despite winning the DMV hearing, it carries no weight into the criminal proceedings. Since no serious evidence was ever considered during the hearing, no jury was present, no judge was present, and the DMV employee has no law training, the courts don’t consider the outcome.
Benefits of the DMV Hearing
Even though the courts do not give any weight to the results of the DMV hearing, your Philadelphia DUI attorney can gather crucial information during the hearing that could in turn affect the outcome of the criminal case. Your attorney has the opportunity to subpoena the arresting officer to appear at the DMV hearing.
The arresting officer usually makes a statement in their police report, then again at the criminal trial. There is no opportunity to be able to interrogate that officer in between the night of the arrest and the criminal trial, unless you get them on the stand at the DMV hearing. At the hearing, your Philadelphia DUI attorney will have the chance to question the officer in detail, and if your attorney can spot even a single inconsistency in the answers of the police officer, can build a stronger defense and poke serious holes in the prosecution case weeks later at the criminal trial.
Hiring your Philadelphia DUI attorney right after your arrest will put them in the best position to prepare for the hearing, put the officer on the stand, and then have the chance to use that evidence to dispute the prosecution case at the criminal trial.