The DUI Law You Don’t Know About

September 11, 2014
The DUI Law You Don’t Know About

It’s a little known fact that even if you’re DUI-charge gets dropped, the California Department of Motor Vehicles can still suspend your license.

Thuan Ha License Suspension

Despite being arrested on charges of a drunk-driving, Thuan Ha was was never convicted of the DUI-related charge. An Orange County court threw out the DUI, ruling that the officers that arrested Ha had illegally obtained a test that showed Ha’s blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit. Yet, a month later, the DMV was still able to suspend his driver’s license for four months. A midlevel DMV employee was able to suspend Ha’s license based on the exact same evidence the court had rejected. “The DMV officer convicted him, suspended his license and put the DUI on his record,” said Alex L. Benedict, Ha’s attorney. “How can the DMV have such power over a criminal judge?”

The Law You Don’t Know

There is a  little-known law that has been in effect for nearly 25 years, that allows the DMV the authority to suspend licenses of anyone who gets arrested for driving with a bloo-alcohol content that is over the legal limit. But that law is now facing its own legal challenge – a nonprofit group called the California DUI Lawyers Association and attorney Steven R. Mandell have filed a lawsuit against it.

The Lawsuit

The lawsuit challenges the idea that a DMV employee is able to act as both a prosecutor and judge during administrative reviews, and contends that this is in violation of constitutional rights. The lawsuit also argues that rather than being able to make fair and neutral decisions, the DMV employees are pressured by the DMV to make decisions regarding the revoking of a license based on little more than an arresting officer’s report. DMV data from 2012 demonstrates DMV employees suspended or revoked the licenses of at least 135 drivers who had DUI’s but were either never charged, or who’s cases were dismissed due to lack of evidence. But according to the DMV, “The only instance in which the department will set aside an action as a result of a court decision are in those cases where a driver has (gone to trial and) been acquitted.” Josh Needle, a criminal appellate and constitutional rights attorney, who was one of several attorneys that filed the lawsuit against the DMV says, “The whole system is just rigged. It is designed and implemented in such a way that the drivers of the state of California don’t have a fair chance.”

 

 

Source: The Orange County Register, Little-known law gives DMV power to take away your license, September 8, 2014

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