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DMV Victory at a “Refusal” Hearing in San Bernardino

Case History: California Drivers Advocates was engaged to represent a client whose driver license was in jeopardy of suspended or revoked following a DUI arrest by a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy in the City of Rancho Cucamonga. Our 67 year old client was just leaving an establishment when he was pulled over by a Sheriff’s Deputy working a DUI Task Force. The deputy was riding a motorcycle and claimed that our client had driven more than 200 feet in a center turn lane in preparation for a left-turn at an intersection.

The arresting deputy ordered our client out of the vehicle and conducted a full battery of Field Sobriety Tests. When the deputy produced a Preliminary Alcohol Screening test, our client blew twice into the device but was not told the result.

With the investigation complete, the deputy arrested our client who was then transported to the Sheriff’s Substation in Rancho Cucamonga. The deputy would later claim that our client refused all chemical testing and that a collection of a blood sample was compelled after a judge issued a search warrant. Because the deputy’s claim was that our client had refused all chemical testing, he wrote his arrest report to indicate a chemical test refusal.

Our client is a highly trained business owner whose ability to serve customers is directly related to his privilege to drive. The loss of his driver license for any period of time would have severely impacted his ability to earn a living.

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. We entered the hearing facing a DMV hearing officer who absolutely believed that our client was lawfully contacted, was lawfully arrested, and had refused to submit to a Chemical Test. The hearing officer was prepared to suspend or revoke our client’s driving privilege for one-year solely based upon the information in the arresting deputy’s report.

Our Defense: When the client retained us, we immediately went to work to schedule his “Refusal” hearing. We requested a “Stay of Suspension” which effectively stopped the suspension/revocation of our client’s driving privilege, thus permitting our client to continue driving during the next 9 months as we prepared to fight his case. This permitted our client to continue earning a living while we worked to protect his future.

Going into the case, we understood that the DMV would be interested in four primary issues:

  • Was our Client lawfully stopped?
  • Was our Client lawfully arrested?
  • Was our Client properly advised of the requirement to submit to a chemical test?
  • Did our Client refuse to submit to a chemical test?

As is usually the case, the arrest reports reflected the deputy’s distorted recollection of the events. Had we based our client’s defense solely on the information contained in the arrest report, all would have been lost. The path to success would require us to conduct our own investigation, issue subpoenas for evidence, and be prepared to cross-examine the deputy.

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 issued subpoenas for the results of the laboratory analysis of our client’s blood sample. Even though the DMV was not alleging a blood/alcohol concentration, the ultimate result of the blood test was our evidence. We issued subpoenas for the search warrant prepared by the deputy and signed by a judge to authorize the seizing of the blood sample. Finally, we prepared for the extensive examination of the deputy Sheriff.

Unfortunately, our client was forced to pay additional fees to pay for the issuance of the subpoenas and to compel the testimony of the Deputy at the hearing, but ultimately it was that work that won the case.   We appeared three times during the course of 9 months to properly present our client’s case. Ultimately, we were able to show:

  • The deputy testified inconsistently regarding the probable cause for stop. Although he had been a deputy sheriff for more than 30 years and claimed to have conducted thousands of DUI investigations, he did not know the difference between several different types of Field Sobriety Tests. He testified that he was driving a patrol car when, in fact, he was riding a motorcycle.
  • The deputy testified that our client never blew into a PAS device when, in fact, he had blown twice. Our client assumed that by blowing into the breath device, he had satisfied the requirement to submit to a chemical test.
  • The deputy testified that he had advised our client of the Implied Consent Law while transporting him/her to the Rancho Cucamonga office. This was not possible as the deputy was riding a motorcycle and someone else transported our client to the station.
  • The deputy alleged that our client had driven for more than 200 feet in a center turn lane, but could not explain how he determined that distance.
  • In his arrest report, the deputy documented one reason for stopping our client, but in the affidavit to the judge to obtain a search warrant, he alleged an entirely different set of facts.
  • The DMV did not introduce the blood/alcohol testing as evidence because they were alleging that our client had refused a chemical test and the BAC was not relevant. When we subpoenaed the blood/alcohol analysis, we discovered that our client’s blood/alcohol concentration was below the legal limit and we used that to argue that our client was not lawfully arrested to begin with.

Throughout the entire process, the Sheriff’s Department obstructed our attempts to collect pertinent evidence by claiming our subpoenas were never received or had been misplaced.

At the conclusion of the “Refusal” Hearing, the hearing officer took the matter under submission. Three days later, we received official notice that the hearing officer had “Set Aside” the suspension and our client’s driving privilege was fully reinstated.   As a result our client’s job is safe and he is driving safely.

Also, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office rejected the criminal portion of our client’s case.

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