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DMV Victory at a “Refusal” Hearing for a Commercial Driver in San Bernardino

Case History: California Drivers Advocates was engaged to protect a client whose commercial driver license was in jeopardy of being disqualified and suspended following a DUI arrest in San Bernardino County. The 44 year old client was standing on the front porch of his home with his girlfriend when officers from the California Highway Patrol pulled up and asked that he walk to the street to speak with them. When the client refused to leave the sanctuary of his property, the CHP Officers entered a closed gate and approached the client.

The CHP officers explained that an anonymous caller had telephoned and reported that a male driver had been seen leaving a local convenience store and was presumed to be intoxicated. Using the license plate number provided by the anonymous caller, the officers discovered the vehicle was registered to our client and drove to his home to investigate.

Although our client denied driving and even though he was parked in the driveway behind a closed gate, the officers dismissed our client’s protests and arrested him for DUI. Our client was so incensed by what he perceived as an unlawful arrest that he refused to submit to any chemical testing of his blood or breath, thus resulting in an allegation of Chemical Test Refusal.

Because our client’s employment was directly tied to his ability to operate a specialized “commercial” vehicle, his future was on the line. In fact, his employer notified him that the loss of his commercial endorsement would mean the loss of his job……….. Period!

 DMV’s Position :The California DMV’s position was crystal clear. Under California Administrative Law and the “Official Duty Presumption” in the Evidence Code, the DMV was permitted to presume that our client was guilty and then challenged us to rebut the case. We entered the hearing facing a particularly difficult DMV hearing officer who absolutely believed that our client was lawfully contacted, was lawfully arrested and had illegally refused to submit to a Chemical Test. The DMV’s position was that our client was guilty of DUI and should just accept a driver license suspension.

  • California Vehicle Code Section 15300 mandates that a commercial driver accused of DUI must suffer the disqualification of his commercial license for a minimum of one year (A lifetime revocation on a 2nd offense). This would have resulted in our client’s loss of employment.
  • California Vehicle Code section 23612 mandates that any driver who is lawfully arrested for DUI must submit to a chemical test of his or her blood or breath to determine the blood alcohol concentration in their body. Refusing a chemical test mandates a minimum suspension of the driver license for one-year (no restricted driving privileges).

Our Defense: When the client retained us, we immediately went to work to schedule his “Refusal” hearing and stopping the immediate suspension of his driver license. This permitted the client to continue driving during the next 8 months as we prepared for and fought his case. His employer honored his temporary driving privilege so he could remain employed.

Early in our investigation, we concluded that the best avenue to victory was to attack the lawfulness of the original detention and ultimately the arrest of our client. Fortunately, substantial case law exists to determine when a police officer may detain or arrest a person based on the unverified statement of an anonymous witness.

Our defense began with a detailed interview of the client to examine every moment of the day leading up to the arrest and chemical test refusal. Once we received the police reports, we issued subpoenas for additional items of evidence to include the “dash-cam” audio and video, 911 recordings and dispatch logs. We also conducted an extensive interview of the girlfriend as she was a percipient witness to the events. We prepared her statement into a sworn declaration that was served on the DMV.

After months of preparation, we presented our defense before the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The path to success included:

  • Objecting to each of the DMV’s exhibits with specific objections to certain items contained within those documents.
  • Presentation of the 911 audio recording to clearly demonstrate the vague and ambiguous statements of the anonymous caller to the dispatcher.
  • Direct examination of the girlfriend who witnessed the events including our client’s adamant denial of driving.
  • Presentation of a 20-page legal brief that outlined the case law in support of our argument
  • Finally, we offered our closing argument that brought clarity and “punch” to our entire case. Our position was the DMV’s case lacked sufficient evidence to establish that our client was lawfully arrested and, based on an unlawful arrest, the chemical test refusal was irrelevant.

Our defense took more than eight months and required three appearances before the hearing officer.

OUTCOME: At the conclusion of the “Refusal” Hearing, the hearing officer took the matter under submission. Four weeks later, we received official notice that the hearing officer had “Set Aside” the suspension and our client’s driving privilege was fully reinstated.   The hearing officer ruled that the arrest of our client was not lawful and that the license suspension could not stand. Our client suffered no license suspension and no disqualification of his commercial endorsement. As a result our client’s job is safe and he is driving safely.   Also, our client was able to use all of our work at the DMV to negotiate a positive settlement in his criminal case.

Call CDA Today. Let us put you on the road to victory!

The DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates include former police officers, DMV Hearing Officers, Investigators and Scientists. Our training, our experience and our reputation provide any driver, especially commercial drivers, the best opportunity to win their Administrative Hearing. Whatever legal or scientific defense your case requires, CDA is ready to fight for you.

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