In many instances, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will act to suspend a person’s driving privilege based upon information contained within a police report, accident report, traffic citation, news report, or any of a dozen other sources that provide the DMV with cause to believe the driver has violated the law or is unfit to drive. When a DMV hearing officer introduces these documents to support suspension of a driving privilege, they assume that everything contained within those documents is clear, concise, and truthful. There is no belief that the evidence could be inaccurate.
The Flaw of DMV Scene Inspections.
DMV administrative hearings are conducted within the confines of a Regional Driver Safety Office and the DMV hearing officer rarely leaves his or her desk. Essentially this means that a DMV hearing officer will make critical, life‐altering, decisions about a person’s privilege to drive without ever visiting the scene of an accident or the location where a driver was arrested or cited. Hearing Officers are often blind to the physical characteristics of a location where an incident occurred and only take their information from what is presented in their documents.
We Investigate the DMV Scene Inspection
Working as a team, your CDA advocate and assigned investigator have the obligation to literally bring your case to life. It is their duty to collect evidence which paints a picture for the hearing officer so that he or she may consider information which is not contained within the DMV’s evidence. Getting this done often requires a scene inspection.
That’s right…. To get the job done, your advocate or investigator must get out from behind their desk, go out into the world and seek out information that is often omitted from a police report. Many times, meeting with a driver at the scene of their incident can reveal a wealth of new evidence. You were there, the hearing officer was not. Remember, the DMV process moves forward quickly and evidence disappears or changes so any delay in getting to the scene is problematic.
Once the scene inspection is conducted, a determination must be made regarding how your advocate will best present this information to the DMV hearing officer. Remember, the hearing officer was not at the scene and your advocate must present the evidence in a fashion that is permissible under the evidence code and paints a clear picture of the facts involved.
In many instances, DMV administrative hearings can be won simply by your defense team going to scene and taking a “real world” look at the facts. The DMV will assume their evidence against a driver is correct and they will challenge us to prove them wrong. Conducting a scene inspection can be a critical step in getting that job done.
What We Look For During DMV Scene Inspections
- Going door to door in a neighborhood to locate previously unidentified witnesses.
- Canvassing a specific area to determine if any security video may exist which contains footage helpful to the case. Video footage from nearby businesses can often be helpful but will require the issuance of a subpoena.
- Inspecting roadway design and roadway conditions to determine any facts which may have contributed to an accident.
- Inspecting the area for proper traffic control function or sign placement.
- Inspecting the location of Sobriety Check Points to determine if the location meets minimum federal guidelines for conducting such intrusive stops.
- Inspecting the scene of a DUI investigation to determine if the location of field sobriety test (FST) was adequate to permit the fair administration of tests. Checking for grade, slope, and other factors which may have affected the driver’s balance.
- Conducting “Time and Distance” studies to determine if a police officer could actually have paced a vehicle adequately to determine the speed of the driver.
- Conducting critical review of the scene to determine if a police officer’s statements in a police report are accurate.