How a DUI Affects Your Driver’s License

Most people know that when you’re arrested for a DUI, you will be facing criminal charges. What a lot of people do not know, however, is that there is also another administrative process that also gets started as soon as you are arrested for DUI. In fact, unless you act quickly, this case gets started against you and will result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license privileges, without the state even having to prove that you were driving under the influence. If you don’t start fighting those charges now, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended within 15 days of your DUI arrest.

When you are arrested for a DUI, the officers will usually conduct a chemical test on you to get a reading on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This is performed using either a breath test, a blood test, or sometimes both. If you refuse to consent to the chemical test, Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) will suspend your license for 12 months. If you agree to the tests, and your BAC comes back above 0.08%, you face an automatic 90-day license suspension. If you perform a blood test and the results have not yet come back from the crime lab, you will still face an automatic 90-day suspension.

Sounds crazy? People aren’t usually aware of this until it happens to them, but you actually agreed to this procedure in the fine print when you signed up for your Arizona driver’s license.

Arizona’s Implied Consent Law

This procedure comes from what is known as Arizona’s implied consent law, ARS 28-1321. This law states that a person who drives a motor vehicle in Arizona gives consent to a chemical test (blood or breath) if the person is arrested for a DUI. In other words, agreeing to submit to a blood or breath test is a requirement of having a driver’s license in Arizona. Technically, you can refuse, but then your license will be suspended for a longer period of time and the police can still apply for a warrant to test your blood anyway. So if you are arrested for DUI, a chemical test is almost always going to happen, one way or the other.

The Admin Per Se Form

When you are arrested for DUI, the arresting officer will usually confiscate your driver’s license and give you a pink and yellow admin per se form that will act as your driver’s license for the next 15 days.

Their ability to take your license comes from Arizona’s admin per se law, ARS 28-1385. Under the admin per se law, your license will be confiscated in the follow circumstances:

  • The test results for the BAC are not available (usually when a blood test is conducted so the results are not immediately available and must be tested at the crime lab).
  • The BAC results are a 0.08 or more.
  • The BAC results are a 0.04 or more and you were driving a commercial vehicle.
  • A drug is found in your system.

Once an admin per se form is issued, your license will be automatically suspended by the MVD unless you request an MVD hearing.

Stopping the Automatic License Suspension

In order to stop the automatic suspension of your license that happens 15 days after you receive you admin per se form, you must request a hearing from the Executive Hearing Office. This will “stay” your license suspension, or put it on hold, until the date of your MVD hearing. If you hire us to represent you on your DUI, requesting a hearing is something that we could do for you.

Different Types of MVD Hearings

There are three different types of MVD hearings that may apply to your case, depending on the particular facts and circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest.

  • Administrative Per Se Hearing: This type of hearing only involves a few issues. These include whether the police had reasonable suspicion that you were impaired while driving, whether the BAC was over a 0.08 (the legal limit), and the accuracy of the chemical tests (i.e., the breath test or the blood test that the police performed during the DUI arrest).
  • Implied Consent Hearing: This is the type of hearing that you will face if you refused to provide a blood or breath sample voluntarily after a DUI arrest. The sole questions here are: 1) were you driving or in “actual physical control” of the vehicle? And 2) Did you refuse to cooperate by providing a chemical test?
  • Negligent Operator “Points” Hearing: A DUI will put “points” on your driver’s license. In Arizona, if you have enough points, you will face consequences with your driving privileges. How severe these consequences are will depend on prior traffic violations that you may have. A “points” hearing will therefore look into not just your current DUI charges, but also your past driving record, to see how many points you have against your license and what the penalties for that will be.

Can You Drive While Waiting for the MVD Hearing?

Yes. In fact, this is one of the benefits of asking for an MVD hearing if you are arrested for DUI. Instead of automatically having your driving privileges suspended 15 days after a DUI arrest, you will be able to drive and to make arrangements for yourself in the event that your license suspension is upheld at the MVD hearing. Buying yourself time in this way can often be worth it in itself.

Burden of Proof at an MVD Hearing

MVD hearings are civil or administrative proceedings. These types of hearings are different than criminal hearings and they are less formal. Criminal hearings require the state prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt” in front of a judge and a jury. In an administrative hearing, there is no jury, and the judge is a lesser type of magistrate called an “administrative law judge” or ALJ. The ALJ gets to decide whether your license suspension should be upheld.

Unlike a criminal trial, proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not required. Instead, the standard is called “preponderance of the evidence.” This means, taking all the evidence into account, is it more likely than not that you committed DUI.

What to Expect at an MVD Hearing

And MVD hearing will usually have three people present: your attorney, the arresting officer, and the administrative law judge. If you have an attorney, you will not need to attend the MVD hearing. Of course, you will need to attend if you are representing yourself (and you are also free to attend even if you have an attorney if you would like to do so).

The hearing starts with arresting officer providing testimony about your DUI arrest and the chemical test that was performed to measure your BAC. Once the officer has given his testimony, your defense attorney can cross-examine him. Sometimes the officer will provide conflicting or false testimony that can be used to impeach the officer at trial or which can be used in plea bargaining with the prosecutor to negotiate reduced criminal charges.

After the testimony has been presented, the ALJ will make a ruling on the status of your license suspension.

How to Deal with a License Suspension

If the ALJ upholds the suspension after your MVD hearing, then you will usually be able to choose a date within 30 days of the hearing for the suspension to start. On rare occasions, the ALJ will allow an individual to start their suspension sometime after 30 days, but this requires a very compelling reason.

If the hearing was an admin per se hearings (in other words, if you consented to the chemical test during your DUI arrest) your license suspension will be for 90 days, which will require you to give up all driving whatsoever for at least 30 days. After the first 30 days, you can get a restricted driver’s license for the remaining 60 days of your suspension after completing alcohol screening from an approved agency. With a restricted license you can drive to work and back.

Once the full 90 days is up, you can go to MVD to have your full driving privileges reinstated.

If the hearing was an implied consent hearing and your license was suspended for 12 months, there are still steps you can take to get some driving privileges reinstated before the full year has passed. After completing 90 days of your suspension, you will be eligible to apply for a restricted license with the installation of an ignition interlock device, which you must pay to have installed and maintained in your car. This restricted license will also require you to undergo drug and alcohol screening.

What If I Have an Out-of-State License?

If you have an out-of-state license, then the state where your driver’s license was issued may have additional consequences for your driving privileges. Arizona’s MVD will communicate with the MVD from the state with that issued your license, so you should expect the news of your DUI arrest to reach your home state. You should consult a DUI attorney licensed in that state in order to determine if there are additional ramifications for your driver’s license.

Consequences if You Have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

Commercial license holders and applicants have certain notification requirements for DUI violations. MVD is particularly severe in situations where a CDL holder is arrested for DUI. This will likely result in a CDL suspension for at least 1 year. If this is your second DUI-related license suspension, then you will be looking at a lifetime revocation of your CDL. This will spell and end to your commercial driving career. You will also be required to report the suspension to your employer, and if you fail to do so you will be guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor.

Defenses at an MVD Hearing

There are several defenses that can be raised to protect your driving privileges at an MVD hearing for DUI violations. These include:

  • No reasonable suspicion that you were driving or in actual phsycial control of the vehicle.
  • Unreliability in the BAC test results.
  • Invalid and unreliable testing procedures used by the officer.
  • Inaccurate BAC test evaluation.
  • You were not properly informed of the consequences of refusal to submit to a test.
  • You were not placed under arrest.
  • You submitted to the breath/blood test.

How Salwin Law Can Help

Stewart Salwin is an experienced DUI attorney who has practiced as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, so he can view DUI cases from all sides and knows the best arguments to make to provide superior legal counsel to his clients to protect their rights. Under ARS 28-1385 you only have 15 days until your license is suspended. Don’t hesitate and call Salwin Law Group today for a free consultation to see how we can help protect your license. We serve the greater-Phoenix area, including Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Goodyear.

Call Salwin Law Group today at (480) 702-1789, or contact us online to make your appointment.